For the second year in a row, The Church Report has put me at the top of their list of 'Top 20 Youth Ministers'. I didn't mention it to anybody last year and wouldn't have this year if not for the fact that it is the topic of conversation on a couple of blogs. Let me give you a little history and my thoughts.
Last March, my assistant received a phone from The Church Report Online asking for a bio because I was being listed as one of the top 20 youth pastors. I was surprised that I was on the list, and even more surprised and slightly concerned that such a list was even going to be published, so I asked my assistant to call them and ask how the list was compiled, what the criteria was etc. Their response was basically this: Each year they do a massive survey asking church leaders to list the most influential churches in America. They publish this list each year. From that list, they create their list of top 20 youth pastors, top 20 worship leaders, top 20 children's ministers etc.
They said that they took a quick look at the health of the youth ministries and the reputation of leadership to make their list....that the list didn't match the top 20 churches exactly, but came from the top 50 churches, and that I was being named #1. In hindsight, I wish I would have declined the award right then. But I guess my thinking was that if such a list exists, I may as well be at the top (I recognize the arrogance and insecurity in that statement)!
I heard nothing, got no phone calls. I began receiving emails this week from people offering me genuine congratulations as well as my friends mocking me for my 'repeat', my 'dynasty in the making', my 'back to back championship' etc. I went to the current issue of TCR and compared it to last year's list. IT WAS EXACTLY THE SAME! Nobody was off the list, nobody had moved up or down a spot and there was nobody new added.
I could probably right a book about my thoughts! I'll make them bullet points and try to keep them brief:
* I dislike anything in ministry that pits churches, pastors etc. against each other. Creating a 'top 20 list' seems to go against kingdom economics.
* I found last year's list and methods to be suspect at best. Just because a church as a whole won an award from a survey of peers somehow means the youth pastor at that church automatically wins the same award?
* I find this year's list to be completely invalid (again, I think the whole concept is questionable, but much more so when it has no integrity). I think that by cutting and pasting last year's list, the organization hurt it's own credibility and also hurts the credibility of youth ministry (at least it feels like it hurts our credibility....although I'm not quite sure why).
* The question has been asked: "Why Kurt and not Doug Fields?". While I would like to say that it is because I'm obviously a much more gifted and talented youth worker, I have a feeling it happened like this:
Church phone rings and is answered by receptionist who happens to know me better than Fields...
TCR: "Hello, can you please give us the name of your youth pastor?"
Church receptionist who happens to know me better than Fields: "Uh, Kurt Johnston?"
TCR: "Thank you."
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how I have become America's Top Youth Pastor two years in a row.