Episode 91: Messy Middle Part 3

Episode 91: Messy Middle Part 3

Seasoned youth pastor and podcast host, Justin Herman believes that every person has a story to tell. His mission in life is to help others tell their stories, especially those that are about how messy ministry can find order in chaos through God’s grace. He is the host of “Controlled Chaos” — the highest-rated youth ministry podcast on iTunes.



  1. Mariner’s Church: marinerschurch.org
  2. Sandals Church: sandalschurch.com
  3. Instagram: @heyjustinherman
  4. Twitter: @heyjustinherman
  5. Controlled Chaos Podcast


  1. youthmin.org
  2. Book: Hero Maker by Dave Ferguson
  3. Podcast: Controlled Chaos on iTunes

Episode Quotable

Grab your reading glasses and download the PDF here.

Podcast host, Justin Herman says his mother used to tell him, “Hard work and slacking off both pay, but they pay very differently.”

At 34 years of age, the disciplined ministry leader learned this first hand, living through more multigenerational organizations than most seasoned pastors. These experiences have afforded him invaluable empathy to better understand people, especially those in the church who are experiencing the messy middle.

Having grown through his own lessons, Justin reflects on a humbling moment he had with Matt McGill, Managing Editor at Pastors.com. During his first month in his role at Mariners Church, Justin was asked to join an online coaching team. For a fee, listeners could purchase time with a Mariner’s mentor. Eager to participate in the program, Justin shared the news on his social media platforms, only to be confronted by Matt.

In compassion and wisdom, Matt asked what Justin might share with the young pastor from Nebraska who had lost his job, and invested his severance money on coaching time with Justin. In that moment, Justin realized he wasn’t ready to mentor others, and in fact, should wait until he spiritually matured.

That balance between side hustling in ministry to augment a pastoral paycheck is something Justin has always found challenging. There’s a fine balance between self promoting for the benefit of others, vs for the benefit of your own glory. For him, it comes down to the motive, and determining the end goal of something as simple as a social post.

“It’s a discipline,” he says. “This culture has to wrestle with that, and certainly my senior pastor didn’t have to worry about social media. But at the same time, if you don’t have a presence, you’re missing a total audience.”

With motive must come strategy and substance, with a plan to solve a problem rather than start one, and ideally to use a social platform to uplift others. Once that platform is established, the greatest gift is to open the clutched fist and give it away.

“How can I be less of a hero, knowing that the multiplicity in impact is going to happen through my influence, not by my influence?”

Stepping back as the “hero” comes through knowing that our identity is not tied up in ministry. Justin learned this lesson firsthand, when he was let go from his role as a youth pastor at Sandals Church. After losing his job, he consulted his wife about next steps. Rather than watch the church service online, they went back to church, the one place where they found community. As painful as it was, Justin found healing among friends.

“If you can’t admit when you’re hurting, then who are you trying to look strong for? It’s not for Jesus… I was emotional. But that’s where you find yourself in that middle and have the honesty to ask, ‘God, what’s going on here?’”

In that messy middle, Justin turned to the book of Psalms, and reflected on the mistakes David made in his own leadership. The best part of the story, says Justin, is that “In the midst of the chaos, David was a man after God’s own heart.”

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