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Leading In Seasons When Our Positions Look Different: 3 Things We Can Learn From A Punter

Leading In Seasons When Our Positions Look Different: 3 Things We Can Learn From A Punter

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Youth workers are typically the best utility players on a church staff team. The roles we play in student ministry make us into ministers who can truly serve our students faithfully. Some moments, we are a coach calling the plays and preparing the students for the challenges of living the Christian life. Other days, we are a cheerleader encouraging students to press on and that their work is not in vain. In times of crisis, we are a medic helping to tend to a student’s wounds and applying the gospel to nurse them back to health. But what happens the day we wake up and realize we are now a punter?

Pandemic ministry has affected all of us on different levels. The virus has killed our typical routines, programming, and events. Our fear of virus exposure has closed off many from community because no

one knows who may unknowingly pass sickness to another. Our most extraordinary plans are always a few phone calls or text messages away from being shut down. We live in a season of starting, stopping, and hoping for a better future. We are punters in this season. We take the ball from where it is, kick it deeply into the future, and hope that it will be playable from its next position.

Since punter is a new position for most of us, how can we be faithful to play this new pandemic caused role well?

1. Punters Live In The Now But Prepare For The Future

Though punters sit on the sideline until the time is right, they are engaged with the game. They still learn the plays, support the offense and defense on the field, and wait for the time to be right.

If we are going to have moments when we move from a coach, cheerleader, or medic to a punter, we must have a contingency plan. If you haven’t looked at the multi-page contract for your next youth activity for cancellation policies, this might be your year to start doing that. As a punter, you should also have a plan B ready in case an event, program, or activity needs to be launched into the future with a few seconds left on the clock.

2. Punters Trust That God Is Still In Control

The punter steps into a situation that they did not create and is quickly put on the spot to get the team out of the hole they find themselves in. Even though the punter cannot control the situation, they must step in and act.

One of the greatest lessons of the pandemic is that we have less control over things than we ever imagined. In the book of James, the author gives an example of a businessman who boasts about his schedule and soon-to-be outstanding accomplishments. After writing of the foolishness of this perspective, James writes that we should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (4:15).

Despite COVID, chaos, and all the headlines, God is still on the throne and in control. We can trust Him to lead us through situations beyond our control and give us wisdom in how to best punt toward the future.

3. Punters Look For God’s Current Work

On the sideline, punters get a front-row seat to the game. They get to celebrate the first downs and touchdowns. They get to cheer when the team is doing well. The punter also sees the incremental process as the ball moves across the field.

It is often difficult to see God’s work in pandemic seasons because we have defined God’s work in the past as big things. We had a large event where many students came and heard the gospel. What a great win! We took students on an international mission trip to serve orphans in Africa. Life-changing win! What if wins in this season were defined by increments rather than big moments?

God is at work all the time in incremental ways in our ministries. The student who has started reading her Bible outside of church. The student who stepped up at school to share the gospel with his friend at lunch. The student who invited her friend to church. These are all wins, but they may have been “too small” for us to notice and celebrate in the past. Maybe the role of a punter is an invitation to slow down and see God’s hand at work in everyday ways in the lives of our students and ministry.

As you enter into the punter season as a utility-playing youth pastor, seek to live in the now but be prepared for the future, trust that God is still in control, and pray for eyes to see God’s current work. 

Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:

  • How has the punter role described this season of youth ministry for you?
  • How can you seek to stay in the now, prepare for the future, and look for God’s hand at work in incremental ways?

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