I thought I’d pass my "best advice" on to you in hopes that it might be a challenge for you today, as well.
I'd encourage you to remember the necessity of regular, personal worship time.
I interact personally with hundreds of youth workers each year, most often in training environments. When we open up about the challenges we face, this is one of the most common. And studies back this up. Essentially, we have largely learned how to do ministry without staying in close communion with God. I want to challenge you to reorganize your life, making it your number one priority to engage with God regularly in a personal time of worship through Scripture reading and prayer. See it as joy, not drudgery. It is the fuel that will keep you and your ministry going.
I'd encourage you to see relationships you have with students not as a means to an end, but as the end itself.
Relationships aren’t the way you accomplish things on your agenda. Relationship is your agenda. And not just any relationship, but Christ-centered relationship. Our students will value the relationships they have with you, potentially for the rest of their lives. They won’t value the programs or events they attend. Let this truth drive your ministry philosophy.
You have the power through relationship to deeply impact the faith of a teenager. But it goes both ways. By denying relationship, you also have the potential to drive students away from church, which for some of them, may be the only place the are exposed to God.
I'd encourage you to see every aspect of your ministry through the lens of the Gospel.
Your youth group should be a Christ-centered, Gospel-driven movement, not just a gathering of teenagers. Our goal should be to view everything through the lens of our brokenness and God’s unfailing desire to make us new. When we fail to craft ministries where everything we do is planned and executed with reinforcing the Gospel in mind, we lose that thing that makes us unique. If our youth ministries aren’t Gospel-centered and Christ focused, they are just another extracurricular option for teenagers.
I'd encourage you to create an environment where your ministry is a joint venture of your family.
Share your ministry with your family as much as possible. It won’t encumber them. It will embolden them. The goal is to have your kids and your spouse see your ministry efforts as y’alls not yours. [I make no apologies for my Southern-ese ☺] We get this wrong, a lot of times with good intention. We protect our families. And there are times they need to be protected. But often, we just isolate them from the work we’re doing. Which leads to strife.
I’m not talking about giving you an excuse to carry your work home. But including your family in your ministry is invaluable.
I'd encourage you to remember what you do and why you do it.
There are times when we’re all tired. Maybe you’re in a season of tiredness. You’re dealing with so many external, non-essential challenges. It’s easy to forget what it is you do. It’s easy to forget that you’re not a glorified event planner for 12-18-year-olds in your congregation. God has called you to be one of the people who leads His children to know Him better. You are the one God tapped to shepherd them. There is a hunger in our students. Let your deep passion for seeing them know God more be what helps fill that hunger.
I hope these five challenges help you think about youth ministry a little differently today.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share any in the comments section below.