Early in my youth ministry career, I learned something kind of bizarre. I tried to connect with respected youth leaders in my area in hopes of gaining a little help from their years of wisdom. I had hoped they might take this new guy under their wing to help expand some influence in our large community of lost teens.

Instead, what I learned was that they were similar to football coaches. They had their successful ministry playbook and did their best to keep it private. No follow up emails or phone calls, no follow throughs on their “Yeah man, let’s get together” after an unexpected bumping in to. It seemed that this was their home field and they weren’t about to let some small-time coach come in and make their fans switch jerseys.

Maybe this isn’t true in your arena or even how YOU think, but I can bet someone reading this is saying, “Yep, I get it.”. You’re looked at as “competition”, the other team, the rival church down the street, even if you’re a small one. I understand how we could all think that way sometimes, but if we’re honest. it’s just… stupid.

As our ministry and my experience has grown, I try my best to not fall into the coaching playbook trap and make it a point to connect with others as best as possible. Last week I invited a youth pastor to breakfast who was new to our area, freshly married and new to full-time ministry. We talked about our “home field”, I shared some things I’ve experienced and invited him to join the one other leader willing to hang out with me.

I love this because if we do it, we all win. We can all benefit. Here’s a few reasons why.

1. Venting!
Consider it counseling without having to lay on a couch. And honestly, who can understand you better than someone who is fighting the same battle? You’ll be shocked at how much turmoil your “rival team” has in common with you and how much better you’ll feel when you leave. You might even feel better just hearing how messed up THEY are! (kidding… maybe) It’s great to have someone to vent to, plus it’s free, unless you pick up the check.

2. A community playbook
It took me a while to get used to this, but when my local youth pal and I started to share playbooks it was amazing. We’ve shared message ideas, stage design ideas, volunteer training ideas. We’ve partnered up in speaking at local public school Christian clubs. I even called on him to help me plan our first winter retreat since he had lots of experience and is a lot smarter than I am. In fact, we are even working on an idea to join our ministry teams to host a local youth conference. Imagine what an impact could be made if we were willing to make our successful plays public.

3. Power in numbers
My buddy and I have kids who go to the same schools and live in the same neighborhoods. Honestly, why shouldn’t we work together to build a mega-team of soul-winners? I mean, we both have the same Kingdom-minded goal which is to mobilize our kids to make Jesus-powered change in their community.

I always think of the scene in “A Bugs Life” where the ants realize how powerful they can be if they join forces against the enemy Hopper. That scene of them lining up behind each other and linking arms is such a powerful picture of what we could do together. Same for us. Not MY church, THEIR church, THIS church, THAT church, but THE church!

I think youth leaders ministering to the same areas should remember this truth.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Maybe it’s time that we stopped trying to win the attendance Super Bowl and polishing our trophies for being the powerhouse district youth ministry. Maybe we should swallow some pride, come together and open our playbooks with each other. Maybe you need to reach out to someone who can help you or maybe reach out to someone that YOU can help.

You may be surprised at how many battles we begin winning with more coaches on the same team.