The Confession of a Former Youth Pastor

As I was biking to and from work last Friday, I listened to an excellent edition of This American Life.  The subject was amusement parks, and it was hilarious (and even a little inspiring).

One of the segments played voicemails that listeners had left about their most poignant amusement park memories, many of which had to do with being vomited on.

I don’t like amusement parks.  Never have.  They’re hot, sticky, plastic places, “the first toxic great excrement of a hyperreal civilization.”

But, as a youth pastor, I had to spend at least one day every summer at an amusement park.  So, I had a secret plan, that I will now confess to the world:

I would be sure to place myself in the group with the kid that I thought had the weakest stomach.  Then, as the morning progressed, I would heartily encourage both the eating of much gross food and the riding of the most hair-raising roller coasters.

Inevitably, that kid (or another) would puke, and I would find myself sitting comfortably for the rest of the day in the air conditioned First Aid building.  (If you haven’t been in the First Aid building of an amusement park, it’s like a little Garden of Eden in the center of Hell.)

My apologies to all of the kids who puked on my behalf.  But, I admit, I don’t regret what I did.

What are your youth ministry confessions?

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  • Tony,

    That’s awesome. Here is my confession.

    I have a very small bladder but I try to keep our youth trips moving and keep up the appearance that we can push on for several hours without stopping. We never can, which, secretly, I don’t mind since I’m usually needing to go after an hour or so. But I have a few kids like me that I know will not make it long either; I talk a big game of time and schedule but rarely discourage them from chugging down a giant drink. A bit into the trip I’m always happy to let them pipe up and say “I’ve gotta go!.”

    My scapegoats.

  • Julianna

    Tony, that is *awesome*. I’m tucking that strategy away in a back pocket for future reference!

  • Kenton


    But if hell is the amusement park and heaven is the first aid tent, I’ll opt for hell and lock the door from the inside.

  • Brian


    Enough people think you’re not a Christian based on your theology. Now you give them life reasons too?!?!?

  • Tony,
    I too spent many days at amusement parks. The worst, by far, was Magic Mountain in Houston, TX in the middle of summer. Imagine 100 degrees and 90% humidity surrounded by 10 square miles of concrete. I’m glad I’m not the only former youth pastor who hated these modern torture chambers. But I never tried to get a kid to puke. Did that actually work? If I had known about the FirstAid tent I might have just made myself puke.

  • Confession:
    I play a little game called ” The ‘Too much’, ‘Not enough’, and ‘What Were You Thinking’ Awards” with my volunteers. As I walk the amusement park waving and taking pictures of our students, I will nominate strangers who are dressed to win one of those categories.

  • Uncle William

    Caught in some friendly one-upsmanship with another volunteer driver, I ended up driving 95mph in a van full of middle schoolers. Kept my job and lesson learned.

  • Carl

    I had this done to me, so I’ve done to others. When ordering pizza, I order a lesser amount than I expect that we’ll eat. And I order one fairly gross pizza, inevitably something with black olives or mushrooms and onions or peppers. When the students devour the other pizzas, I refuse to order more pizza until all the pizza is gone. And rarely does the pizza go.

    (I also suppose this is a sad confession of a pizza-based youth ministry. Thankful the era has passed.)