Youth ministry culture is unlike many others. With fast paced schedules, event planning, retreats, relationship building, Sr. Pastors and frustrated Elders, it's no wonder it seems like only the strong survive. Yet, considering all these challenges, I still see so many youth pastors strive to be effective leaders and motivators. Considering all that comes with the territory of youth ministry, how do youth ministers survive? And on the flip side of the coin, why are so many creative, visionary youth ministers burning out? Are there some basic skills that help extend the life expectancy of a youth minister's tenure? Here are some of my thoughts. I'd love to hear some of yours.
Survive Your Vision
Youth ministers can be big dreamers. However, big dreams can be dangerous! :) Prepare to be put in a situation where you have to take a stand and defend your vision. I remember hearing someone say a long time ago that the first answer is almost always "no." If we're honest some of our crazy plans scare folks! It's OK to dream the big dreams, just remember to clearly communicate your vision and stay the course. It will be easier for leadership to support your vision if you communicate it clearly (and regularly).
Remember That Vision Polarizes
Vision can divide people. It can divide church staff, adult volunteers, even students. Vision will attract some and repel others. Some parents may get upset with a new direction or a break from "the way it's always been done." When our student ministry started growing because of an improvement in overall "health," some of the regulars left. You may lose numbers when you implement your vision. Just remember, a healthy student ministry, not a large one, is the goal.
Vision leads to change. But change is hard for people. Keep in mind there may be legitimate reasons for this. Sometimes volunteers have been burned by past experiences with change. Because resistance might happen, be sure to wear your survival gear during these times. To survive this (and any sort of personal issues) listen well, be compassionate, and try to really understand where he or she is coming from. But, resist the temptation to please people by compromising the vision. Instead, go the extra mile to clearly communicate the mission and endeavor to get him or her on board. Remember, progress is preceded by change, and change is preceded by challenge. It's not easy, but you can survive.
I love this statement: "God is not looking for adequacy, He is looking for willingness." God has a way of changing the world with what the world would label "inadequate," if only we are willing to be used! Let us never forget . . . God doesn't need us to advance His Kingdom. He is God. Yet, He wants to work through us. If we put our "self" aside and follow after God's will, we have a much better chance of surviving. Youth ministry is not for the faint of heart.May these survival tips serve you as you boldly blaze a path to change your community.
- What tips do you have for surviving the ministry grind?