5 Areas Of Focus For NEW (And Not-So-New) Youth Ministers
Starting off in youth ministry can be a daunting task.
And let's be honest: Those of us who have been doing it a while still need to re-focus every now and then!
So, here are my 5 areas of focus for new (and not-so-new) youth ministers.
1. The Study
To the youth minister just getting started, my advice would be to consider spending more time with students and less time with books your first year. Become aware of your students' fears, hopes, and dreams. Love your students and learn how to speak the gospel in their language without compromising biblical language. Read lots of Bible, listen to lots of stories from students, and ask good questions to get more out of those stories.
One of the mistakes I made early on was spending time making last minute changes to my message while students were arriving early. My actions communicated, "I care more about how awesome of a speaker I am than I do about you." The time you spend with people IS message preparation. You will learn how to apply your message better to their lives when you know what they are going through. Something to think about: if you're highly relational and have a hard time dialing in to studying, consider staying off the podcasts, and try to develop the habit of spending disciplined time in the Word. Get training from someone you know if you don't know how.
2. The Mission
Ideas are currency. You might not have a ton of experience (or maybe you do). But you do have ideas. You control your vision. And while you might not be able to affect a ton of change outside of your ministry, you can begin to put your ideas and vision into action in the student ministry. A word of advice: Don't get stuck in the dreaming and brainstorming stage too long. Do stuff. Go have conversations with unbelieving students. Ask them where they want to be with God. Ask them what keeps them from believing. Begin to model for others in the church what living on God's mission tangibly looks like. They will begin to take notice.
3. The Parents
As much as you want to fix every problem with every student, remember to guard yourself against the "Savior-complex" that makes you the go-between between the students and God. One way you can fight against this mindset is realizing early on that one of your primary responsibilities is to equip and train parents to raise godly children. When I first started doing youth ministry, I was very young. At the time, I thought parents were just the people who God ordained in my life to keep me organized and responsible. I thought I had to prove to them I was an adult too. I wish early on that I had held more biblical training sessions for parents and realized youth ministry had to involve the family.
4. The Church
Churches often wind up on either end of two extremes. On one extreme, the youth ministry is an age-segregated ministry where anyone old enough to wear Mom jeans or cell-phone clips are not allowed. On the other extreme, churches have no real value for a youth ministry or youth programs. I think early on, you should safeguard yourself from either extremes as much as you can. Adults need to be involved in your group. As a young youth pastor, I never would have vocalized this, but I secretly wanted only college students or young adults to serve as volunteers. At the time, I didn't want any adults to cramp our style. What a wimp I was! I soon found out the value of adults meeting with students and the wisdom they brought to the group. At the same time, students need a refuge to get peer to peer interaction in an environment that fosters spiritual conversations.
5. The Technology
Guard your time on the Internet. Set up a daily routine where you spend maybe 30 minutes to an hour catching up on blogs, tweets, emails, status updates, and news. When that time is up, move on. Remember, there's always tomorrow. Network through Facebook and Twitter, follow blogs and podcasts, but don't let it take away from the real work of doing ministry.
So, these tips are by no means the only areas of focus, but for me, learning to stay disciplined in these areas have helped me grow and evolve as a minister.
What areas of focus have you found to be helpful in developing your growth as a youth minister?