There's nothing worse than pushy youth pastors. How dare they be like a good coach that pushes their teenagers to excel on the football field (or volleyball court or baseball diamond or whatever sport you fancy) of life. How dare they dare teenagers to stand up, live hard and serve Christ with everything.
I can't help but think of my old basketball coach, Bill Adams, who pushed me to "hustle" on the court. Although I stunk it up like a skunk in a car trunk, I was running, scratching, scrapping and trying and Coach Adams always pointed it out with a "was-that-a-compliment or a cutdown?" statement like "Look at Stier over here boys. He ain't got an ounce of athletic ability but he's working hard. He may be running the wrong way down the court, but he's running hard!"
What was awesome about Coach Adams is that he pushed me off the court as hard as he did on. Off the court he pushed me to serve Jesus with everything I had. And although I bumbled and stumbled on the b-ball court I was able to make a difference when it came to serving Christ. Coach Adams was pushy and I thank God for him.
How dare youth leaders be like a good teacher who stands, delivers the truth and demands that their kids advance, grow, engage and, well, learn. I can't help but remember my 5th Grade "pushy" teacher Miss Younger. She pushed us to learn, to memorize, to master the basics. I literally had 5 hours of homework EVERY NIGHT! But she not only pushed me inside of the classroom but outside of it as well. She pushed me to serve the Lord with all my heart and tell everyone I could about Jesus. She was a pushy teacher and I thank God for her.
Think about it. Those who impact us the most usually are the ones who push us the most. But why does that tend to break down when it comes to youth ministry? In the words of my new friend Mark (a youth leader I met in Chicago), "The best bosses push us to perform and then reward us financially. The best coaches push us in sports and then reward us with putting us in the game. The best trainers push us to work out and the reward is that we get in shape. The only place that doesn't reward pushing is youth ministry. Instead of pushing our teens we coddle them." Well, that was close to what Mark said anyway…and I say "AMEN!"
We need pushier youth pastors who are going to push teenagers to go deeper in their relationship with God (aka "discipleship") as they push them to go wider into their relationship with others (aka "evangelism"). Of course, like Coach Adams and Miss Younger, push these young people out of a heart and in an attitude of love but they will push them nonetheless!
Come to think of it Jesus was a pushy "youth leader" too! If the disciples were as young as I suspect when they began to follow the ultimate Rabbi then he pushed them hard and often. In so doing he scared away a lot of the posers away and recruited those who were serious about taking his cause, THE Cause, to the world.
May God raise up a new generation of pushy, passionate and compassionate youth pastors for his glory!