Best Of: Have You Been Hurt By A Leaving Youth Pastor?

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This post on leaving youth pastors sure got you talking. With 98 comments, it’s clear that many of you have felt the sting of a leaving youth pastor.

As part of the research phase for Lies Young Women Believe, I surveyed approximately 1,000 young women from across the country. I interviewed many of those man walking awayyoung women in small groups over coffee in living rooms just like yours and mine. During those interviews, one issue consistently evoked more emotion (specifically tears!) than any other issue. Any guess what it was?

Leaving youth pastors.

We talked about dating. We talked about daddies. We talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly of female friendships. We even got into a heated debate or two about cultural issues, but nothing evoked a more emotional response than the topic of youth pastors who leave.

As a youth worker myself, I was a little floored by this discovery. But the sixteen-year-old version of me wouldn’t be. When I was sixteen, my youth pastor left my church to become a church planter in a different state. I was devastated. I cried for months. More than ten years later that incident remains one of the most painful things that has ever happened to me.

Satan used that pain as an open door to lie to me about my faith and myself. Our focus groups confirmed that he has done the same for many of you. Letting those lies go unchecked can wreak havoc on your spiritual life. As we talk about the church this month, I feel compelled to tell you what I wish I had known as a student facing the pain caused by a leaving youth pastor. More importantly, as I think about the tears you may have shed or the ones you may shed in the future when your spiritual advisor leaves, I desperately want you to understand God’s truth.

Your youth pastor is not your connection to God.

Nancy and Dannah address this very lie in Lies Young Women Believe:

Your youth pastors and leaders are important spiritual leaders in your life, but we have access to God through Christ and Christ alone. Bible scholars call this "the priesthood of believers" (see 1 Pet. 2:9). In Old Testament times, God appointed certain men as priests. They led the people of Israel in worship and offered prayers and sacrifices on behalf of God’s people. Today, Christ is our High Priest. By His death on the cross, He made a complete sacrifice for our sin and invites us to come directly into God’s presence through our relationship with Him. "There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:5–6).

It’s great to have an awesome youth pastor (or youth pastor’s wife or volunteer youth leader) who challenges you in your walk with Christ. But it is so important for you to realize that that person is not your connection to God. Jesus alone serves that function. Don’t let a leaving youth pastor sever your connection to God.

A leaving youth pastor provides an opportunity to draw closer to God.

Sometimes due to moral failure or strife in our churches, our youth pastors leave under extremely painful circumstances. Other times we simply lose the opportunity to regularly see someone we dearly love and want to spend time with. The resulting emotion is often a broken heart. God has a specific promise for us when our hearts are broken.

Psalm 34:18 promises, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

God presses in to us when our hearts are broken. He doesn’t run from our pain; He runs toward us in the midst of it. If you are facing a leaving youth pastor, take the opportunity to draw closer to God. Press into His Word with new fervor. Use the time you are accustomed to spending learning from your youth pastor to seek God yourself through prayer and Bible study. Intercede for your youth pastor and his family as well as for your church and youth group during the transition.

Seize the opportunity to step up to the plate.

A leaving youth pastor inevitably leaves a void. But ministry must go on. Ask yourself what you can do to keep the wheels of your youth ministry turning until a new youth pastor is found. Can you head up the praise team? Can you be in charge of loading worship lyrics into the computer for weekly worship? Can you lead a group of other students to welcome visitors? Can you volunteer to teach the lesson a time or two or to find others who are willing to teach? There is probably a long list of responsibilities that were typically handled by your youth pastor. Those things still need to be done. Don’t sulk about the way things are; take the opportunity to minister to others and cast a new vision for your group.

Don’t take your ball and go home.

Many of the young women I spoke to explained that because of a leaving youth pastor, they left their youth groups or the church altogether. This is a clear example of why Satan takes advantage of situations where a youth pastor leaves by lying to us. Reacting to your hurt over a leaving youth pastor by dropping out of your church or youth group is simply the wrong decision.

Dannah writes about this very truth in LYWB:

Having been through this experience, I understand your hurt! Still, you can’t blame anyone for the choices you make about church. We are each accountable for our own actions and reactions. You can’t blame your youth pastor for any choice you may make to disconnect from the Body of Christ.

God’s family works best together. You need them, and they need you. No matter how many bad experiences you may have in church-and we know you will have them because Satan hates the church and is always attacking-the best place for you to grow, serve, and be discipled is in a local church body (Lies Young Women Believe, 122).

When we face pain like that caused by a leaving youth pastor, sometimes truth can be difficult to hear. I imagine that if someone had sent me the above list of truths when my youth pastor left, I would have been tempted to try to ignore it like a kid sticking his fingers in his ears. My pain in that season felt very real, and as a result I felt justified in acting out in lots of ways that hurt my faith and hurt others. I hope you will choose to respond differently. If you’re facing a leaving youth pastor, I challenge you to mediate on God’s truth, respond by trusting Him and loving His church, and be thankful that you’ll never have to face a leaving Jesus. 

Beware the Husband Basher

"Beware the Husband Basher" was originally posted on July 28, 2010. It made our "Best of the last five years cut" because there’s no arguing with 1,100 Facebook likes and 193 shares! This post is applicable to women of all ages and stages of life—it’s really about the power of our words. Speaking of our words, we’d like to give one of you Conversation Peace by Mary Kassian. Leave a comment below telling us how you would have—or have—handled a husband or friend basher. Do so by Monday, January 7, and we’ll choose a winner at random.

Oh, and if you are married and are looking for a way to build up your marriage rather than tearing it down, check out Jani Ortlund’s short post, "The Six-Second Kiss." You’ll be amazed at what just six seconds can do!


I had a rare morning out with a friend last week. We sipped yummy coffee and enjoyed quiet conversation. As a mom of two little kids, outings like this are a rare treat. I couldn’t have done it without my hubby who watched the kids while I was gone (he even did the laundry and dishes!). He’s wonderful.

Even so, when I got home, I was cranky. I griped at my husband and pointed out the jobs he didn’t accomplish in my absence. I wouldn’t have fed the kids that. I definitely wouldn’t have dressed them in those clothes!

As I heard the shrill sound of my own voice, I wondered what was wrong with me. Why was I acting this way? Then I remembered some of the turns my conversation had taken during my morning getaway.

My friend said things like:

  • “I told him it’s my decision. He may not like it, but I have the final say.”
  • “My husband’s been working a lot of overtime. I’m so aggravated. He never sees the kids.”
  • “He mowed over my flowers again. I don’t know how many times I have to show him the difference between a flower and a weed.”

Harmless comments, right? After all, don’t two girlfriends deserve the right to vent? I no longer think so.

My coffee loving friend is a committed Christian. I happen to know she adores her husband of more than a decade. But she’s forgotten the power of her words when it comes to her husband. I can say from experience that her memory loss is contagious.

She’s not my first friend to speak poorly of her husband. I’ve hung out with men bashers before. It always amazes me how easily I slip into a pattern of negativity and criticism when I have frequent contact with such women. It is a habit that doesn’t make much sense to me. I’m crazy about my husband. There are so many reasons to brag on him and so few reasons to complain. And yet, when I spend time with a husband hater, it doesn’t take long for the bashing to begin at my house. Even worse, I’ve noticed that my heart tends to follow my words (and vice versa). The more I talk negatively, the less I admire, love, and respect my man.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. There’s so no such thing as harmless conversation. I think that’s why Paul wrote:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

Ladies, this passage is especially helpful when we apply it to how we talk about the men in our lives. In public and in private we need to be committed to esteeming them highly and speaking words that build up instead of tearing down.

So what about my husband bashing friend? Do I ditch her? Call her out? Cut off the coffee dates until her words sound more like a Hallmark card? I don’t think so. Instead I will look for every opportunity to speak highly of my man when she’s around. If the conversation goes south, I’ll make an extra effort to steer it in a different direction. I may even bring along a friend who has a history of speaking well of men to our next java stop.

The bottom line is that my friend’s mouth is not my responsibility. It’s my job to love my husband well and to speak highly of others at every opportunity. I want to encourage you to do the same. How can you specifically praise the men in your life today?


I married my husband, Jason, because he was a youth pastor and I had a burning passion for ministry–and because Jason was so handsome and I had a burning passion for him. I wanted to do BIG things for God’s Kingdom and I had visions of the two of us conquering the world in Jesus…

Meet the Parents

We all watched in horror when Ben Stiller’s desire to impress led to a hilarious dinnertime prayer and awkward bragging about his ability to milk the cat in Meet the Parents. However, the real reason that movie made us laugh so hard is because we can relate. Misery truly does love company. Grafting into a…

When Wives Become Mothers (What Do Their Men Really Think?)

By Erin Davis

First, no … that is not a maternity shirt. It looked so much more flattering in my closet. (Darn you, squishy tummy!).

Second, yes … I have heard of those things called hairbrushes. We filmed this on Father’s Day which I opted to spend fishing off a lake dock. (I’d like to thank the Academy for the wife of the year nomination).

In real life I am 5’6″-ish. My man is 6’2″-fabulous. But in this video I look like a giant and he looks shrimpy. Needless to say, I realize this isn’t my most video worthy look. And yet, look at that handsome man beside me! And he’s smart too! He has some great insights on a husband’s perspective on what it’s like when your wife becomes a mommy along with some great tips on how we can love our men well during the little years.

So … I am scrapping my vanity, and sending this video out into the blogosphere with my head held high in all of my chartreuse glory, in the hopes that it will benefit another mother out there as she walks the tightrope of being a wife and am mom.

Join the conversation with Jason and I about how parenting impacts and changes our marriages by leaving a comment right here on this post. Unflattering top and post-fishing hair is, of course, always optional.

This Father’s Day Give Him the Gift of Being Enough

My man and my firstborn

I have a great husband. He loves being a dad and is very involved in our boys’ lives. He changes diapers, participates in discipline and picks up from preschool.

My man and my firstborn

And yet…I can never seem to shake the feeling that I wish he would do more.

Ever since I got pregnant with my first, Eli, it has seemed to me that the burden of parenting has landed more squarely on my shoulders than it does on my man’s. He can never be home enough, involved enough, or concerned enough for my taste. At my worst moments I feel (and sometimes say) that I have to do everything in our home. I reduce his role to being nothing more than our kid’s pal who comes home and wrestles them while they squeal with delight. I just have a hard time seeing what he does for our family and acknowledging that is contributions matter.

We mothers make the best of all martyrs.

Misery truly does love company. I take comfort in knowing I’m not the only one who struggles with discontentment in this way. Many of my mom friends have expressed frustration that their husbands work too much, move too slowly or engage too little. Before your mind starts writing a list of all the things your husband does wrong, might I propose a radical solution? Let him off the hook.

Oh, I do understand that he doesn’t do things your way. Yes, I’ve seen first hand what happens when dads are left to dress their children unsupervised. And I am well aware of what they think qualifies for a nutritious dinner. (Please pass the cheese puffs). But think hard about this predicament with me for a moment. Do we really want husbands who parent just like us? I know that you have mothering instincts and that no one knows your children quite like you do, but is having two identical parents really what’s best for your little ones? I’m thinking that God’s plan to create children through the combination of a woman and a man was not a floop. Perhaps the ways your husband parents differently from you actually have the power to benefit your children. (Feel free to read that sentence again to let it sink in).

The Mommy Wars shined a white-hot spotlight on the fact that our culture esteems a version of motherhood that is impossible and unattainable (to wave your white flag in surrender to that ideal click here). But no one cares to mention the Daddy Wars. A good dad needs to work at least one full-time job to be a good provider, spend quality time with each of his children while perpetually wooing their mother, be the spiritual leader of the family, be the emotional leader of the family, be the moral leader of the family…coach sports teams, lead family devotions, be involved in his church, never loose his cool, help with housework, manage lawncare, keep the oil changed, be the kind of man his daughters should marry and his sons should emulate and for heavens sakes he darn well better remember to take the trash out.

I’m not saying that any of these qualities are unimportant, but girls, lets acknowledge that even we could not keep all of these plates spinning perfectly (and we are Wonder women!).

For Father’s Day, I’d like to suggest that you give your man the gift of lowered expectations. We tend to frown on lowering expectations in our culture. It is seen as settling or a step in the wrong direction. I’m not advocating that you shoulder 100% of the parenting burden, but rather that you make a conscious decision to admire the partner you have rather than wishing for someone who does things differently.

Parenting together is a constant process of negotiating and re-negotiating boundaries and responsibilities. What’s more you are learning on the job. (I call Eli my petri dish child, because he is one whopper of an experiment!) Your hubby should give you grace as you make mistakes, ride the rollercoaster ride of hormones (whee!), and do all that you do the best you can.

Doesn’t he deserve the same measure of grace from you? (Spoiler alert: the answer is yes!)

So, skip the tie this year. I doubt he even wants that really cool fishing tackle thingy you got him. Instead, make the choice to see the things he’s doing right as a dad instead of fixating on all the ways you wish he would be more. That might sound a little something like this, “Honey, you are a great dad. I am so glad we are parenting together. Our family is lucky to have you.”

In light of those kind words, I’d like to make a little prediction. The more you acknowledge the things your husband does right, the more likely he is to keep doing them. The more you focus on the ways he’s a great dad, the less likely you are to see the areas where he misses the mark. The result is a dance where you each do your best and become each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Sounds nice doesn’t it? But here’s the rub—it requires you to stop falling on your sword and fixating on the feeling that it’s all on you. It also requires you to do the hard work of parenting because it matters and it’s ministry and not to earn words of affirmation, positive strokes or atta girls from others (including your husband). It’s not an easy shift to make but it will make life easier on you, your husband and your kids. And that, my friend sounds like a winning ticket for a truly happy Father’s Day.

p.s. Since nothin’ says lovin’ like free stuff, I’ll gladly ship a free copy of “Choosing Gratitude” to two of you who will leave us a comment sharing what makes your husband a great dad.

p.p.s To see an interview with the aforementioned great dad and husband in my life, hop back on the blog on Wednesday where I will be interviewing him about what its like when your wife becomes a mommy.

Beware the Husband Hater

I had a rare morning out with a friend last week. We sipped yummy coffee and enjoyed quiet conversation. As a mom of two little kids, outings like this are a treat. I couldn’t have done it without my hubby who watched the kids while I was gone (he even managed to do the laundry…

Saying “I Do” to Your Mate’s Stuff

“Do you (insert bride’s name here) take this man along with his 47 t-shirts, his pocket knife collection, and that ugly, ratty football jersey he got from the quarterback of his favorite team?” “Yeah. I think so.” “And do you (insert groom’s name here) take this woman along with her flowery bedspread, gajillion throw pillows…

Diversifying Your Social Network

“Birds of a feather flock together,” is a kitschy way of saying we tend to hang out with people a lot like ourselves. If you’re an engaged couple that likely means you’re used to spending time with folks on a fairly limited spectrum. My guess is that the bulk of your free time is spent…

The Question You Need To Be Asking About Kids

So…when are you going to start having kids?” It’s a question you’d better get used to as most couples find that well-meaning friends, co-workers and distant relatives start asking it almost immediately after hearing the words, “I do.” But before you get to the “when” of having kids, you need to tackle the “if.” And…