Knowing your call to youth ministry
There are times that what will keep you in ministry is that clear calling. Make sure your calling is definite. You will need that assurance during the turbulent times of student ministry. You will need that calling as you realize that your salary is not what it could be in other areas of ministry.
Don’t be an island – interact with other youth ministers in both a Mentor and Mentee role
An island is a lonely place. If you encourage your students to have Christian friends at school to help them in walking the Christian life, then lead them by example. Develop friends, find a mentor and mentor someone in student ministry. The work of youth ministry is bigger than your church and your youth group. Get involved in Kingdom work. You will need these connections as you move through the years in student ministry.
Learn the importance of the church and that you are a ministry of the church
One big mistake in the early days of youth ministry is the “us vs them” mentality; the idea that the youth ministry is so much better than the church and that the church just doesn’t understand. You must develop an attitude of partnership with the church; at times you may be the only person to foster this attitude, but you must still pursue this goal. Youth ministry cannot pay your salary, it takes the church; it was the church that had the vision to hire a youth ministry. Grab hold of that concept and honor the church. Help educate the church of the goals, philosophy, need, and professionalism of the youth group. Build the partnership.
Understanding how to love teenagers and respect their parents, increasing your understanding of parents.
You are in a partnership with parents. Not all parents are following God. That is granted. The author has an unwritten goal, “Help teens be more Godly than their parents”. But with that said, the parents, not the youth pastor are charged by God to raise their teens. Honor them in all ways as long as they are not doing something illegal. God will honor you as you honor God’s plan.
Always be willing to learn and grow: read, listen to others and attend conferences
Always learn. You will find out that there is always something to learn. You will learn that there are no experts. You will learn when you are always looking to glean. Read, go to seminars, go to school, and listen to those around you. You need to keep learning until you are finished with ministry or you are dead.
Be willing to change how you do youth ministry as you age, and include consideration of the context of the church God has brought you to.
Aging does not eliminate how you form youth ministry; it does mean you must change. Aging changes energy, perspective, wisdom and even your approach to students. Be open to the changes in aging. Embrace those changes and don’t let those changes say you are not fit for youth ministry. This is a lie. You are fit for youth ministry if God has really called you and you are willing to change as you age.
Having an accountability group to pray, share, and be honest with
Find a group of people of your gender to have an accountability time with. Having a place you can just be yourself is very refreshing as you do ministry and walk with Christ.
Work on your leadership skills, which includes handling conflict.
Develop yourself as a leader. Many times student pastors want to read and study the Bible, current culture and youth ministry techniques. Don’t neglect that God has called you to lead. Be a student of leadership and develop yourself in this area. As you learn leadership, you will learn how to apply those principles your student ministry.
Develop, love and build up your team; remember God brings lots of other people into your team to help students grow to be more like Christ; it doesn’t have to just be you.
Many youth pastors live by the scripture, “I will be lifted up and draw all men to me”. The only problem: they apply this scripture to themselves and not to Christ. Build your leadership team. Recruit people who fill a calling/connection to youth. Love on them. Allow them to have the more fun aspects of ministry. You lead as a servant leader. Let your teens understand there is a team in place. Different leaders will connect with different teens. You need to be ok with that and even celebrate it.
There are many things that can be said about staying long term in student ministry. May this first blog be a starting point that spurs further discussions with those who love Jesus and loves teens and puts those two things together for effective student ministry.