. I was a Guest blogger there in 2007.
Sure ministry is hard, especially youth ministry. So what are some ways to go beyond being just mediocre? Here are some suggestions that I have learned from the school of hard knocks; or otherwise the hard way.
I. Get your Senior Pastor on your side. In my first ministry it was: “You do your job; I’ll do mine and we’ll both be fine.” In other ministries it was: “I’m here to be your Boss.” In my current ministry, it is “we are co-workers in the Kingdom, let’s work together.”
II.Get the parents involved. After all youth ministry should be more supportive of parents. In our post-youth ministry era the number one influence is the students’ parents. (Not the youth worker). I have learned this lesson the hard way and am skeptical at times when a special meeting is called to meet with the Youth Pastor. (Because of past experiences of these turning into a blame game; but currently when one is called it is how can we help you?)
III.Support your volunteers. Some people get paid to do youth ministry; a majority do not! Celebrate your volunteers. Make sure they have the resources they need to do the ministry.
IV. Get your students involved. Give them the ownership. Delegate. Allow room for failure.
V. Keep your soul in check. Develop your soul. Be renewed, refreshed; driven. Keep your focus and relationship with God ongoing. I know when I first started in youth ministry – my soul was dry. My lessons were lacking; and I was flying by the seat of my pants. No plan. No direction. No consulting God. When I got back on the right track; God was and is continuing to mold my own messy self to do His Work!
VI. Know yourself!! Know your limits, gifts and abilities. Set boundaries, have accountability. Maybe give up some of that TV time, Mt. Dew to spend more time doing stuff like taking care of your family and yourself. (who doesn’t need more rest?) I’ve seen too many ministries fail due to lack of this. Whether sexual sin, abuse of power, money … the best thing is to have a good checks and balances system in place. I look back and think “Wow, there might have been some cause for my demise if I didn’t rethink how to approach this.”
VII. Love your family. Include them in your ministry. Tell stories. Be there for them. What is the worse thing that can happen in your youth ministry? Lose your job? Nope. Lose your relationship with God, your marriage, and your children. Those need to come first before your ministry.
The following illustration of this comes from the August 14, 2005 Lookout Magazine pg. 15
“ ‘Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.’ That directive ordered his life. For 20 years, he traveled to Korea, Africa, China, India, and Europe saving souls, housing orphans, and building hospitals. Through his documentary films, radio broadcasts, and personal appearances, he awakened the social consciousness of an entire generation of American Christians. In the process he formed a worldwide relief organization, World Vision, which continues to be an effective Christian relief agency.
The man’s name was Bob Pierce. But while Bob Pierce was reaching the world, he was losing his family. He had accepted the believable lie, “If I take care of God’s business, God will take care of my family.” His all-consuming work kept him away from home for months at a time. Relational distance increased as time with his family decreased.
Eventually he became frustrated, even hostile, toward his family and in time was legally separated from his wife. One child committed suicide; another married prematurely and was shortly divorced. Soon even his closest associates found it impossible to work with him. Consequently, they removed him from the organization he had created.”
VIII. Do what you do best . . . Delegate the rest. If you are a good teacher, teach. Leader, lead. Enjoy leading worship; be a lead worshipper. Use the giftedness and spiritual gifts God has given you and others. It helps taking more off of your plate and having others do it. (see # 2 through 4 above)
IX. Be willing to take chances. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is just another way to learn – Oh, that’s not how it is to be done. Laugh, learn, move on. The All star bloopers by a youth worker could have been written by me. One of the churches that did the most “abuse” to me is one I call my learning church. I had learned from my own mistakes and from others what not to do and God continues to use me.
X. Learn from others. Collaborate. Beg, steal, borrow. After all, when you are in the midst of a dip, going to have one, or just coming out of one nothing is like looking at what others are doing right. Network. Goto conventions. Search online. Read books, magazines. Ask the tough questions: What worked, what didn’t. Know your vision, purpose and how to achieve those. Dream Big … God is using you through both the mountains and the valleys. The only issue is how to handle them.
For me I see it as the Apostle Paul: a race, a journey, a learning experience. 2 Timothy 4:2 states “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” NRSV.
Boy, have I learned what not to do. I am still learning what to do and not do in getting past all the bumps, bruises and dips we’ve all had in ministry.
I have next to my desk this plaque that reads:
When things go wrong,
As they sometimes will;
When the road you’re trudging
Seems all up hill;
When the funds are low,
And the debts are high;
And you want to smile,
But you have to sigh;
When care is pressing
You down a bit,
Rest if you must,
But don’t you quit.
Youth Ministry is one of the best things one can do to love our God and loves those students. Keep up the good work.