I want to begin by giving a disclaimer. I don’t really know how to begin this blog, nor do I claim to be an expert in student ministry. My church is currently in the final stages of our biggest student event of the year and by planning it, it got my mind thinking of what advice I would give to young youth ministers like myself. I took over my first youth minister position when I was 19, I am now 24. So, I’ve only been in youth ministry for about 4.5 years (Will be 5 years in June). These are things I’ve learned by self-reflecting, seen in others, or have been advised by mentors. I pray in some way this will help. Keep in mind these are not in order of any importance.
1. Be Organized
Young youth ministers (and seasoned ones) are notorious for being unorganized and turning in late registrations. In order for you to be on the top of your “game” you need to be as organized as possible. This will give you confidence in your work and will also allow others to be confident in you.
In college, I had a youth ministry professor that once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” The more prepared you are, the more flexible you can be later.
3. Over Communicate
Communication is key in almost anything you do. The same is true for youth ministry. The more you communicate with your team, the better the chances are that things will get done properly and everyone is on the same page. Defiantly use this with your pastor. Speaking of which, read number 4.
4. Submit to Authority
Wither you like it or not, your pastor is your boss. I once had a classmate that said something along these lines, “I don’t answer to the pastor.” He wont last long in youth ministry with that attitude. Scripture teaches us to submit to those over us.Work alongside of each other and take in their wisdom.
5. Don’t Neglect the Girls
One of the biggest mistakes guy youth ministers make is neglecting the girls. Some have even delegated a leader to take care of the girls. The thought process behind this probably has to do with not wanting to be put in a bad situation. But here’s the raw truth: Girls are just as much vital to your youth ministry as the guys are. They need to be loved by you as well. Know your boundaries but don’t neglect something God has placed as valuable.
6. Have a Vision
Youth ministry isn’t just ordering pizza and playing ninja. You need to have a vision for your ministry God entrusted you. Gain that vision and properly communicate it with your pastor, volunteers, church, and students. Without vision, you accomplish nothing.
7. Don’t be a Sissy
When your pastor or others offer you godly criticism to make you better, don’t throw yourself a pity party in your office. If they are doing it out of your best interest then they are trying to make you better. Accept it, learn from it, and strengthen yourself.
8. Respect Your Pastor’s Time
Your pastor is a busy person. Of course it’s important for you to build a relationship with them and be on the same page. It is also important that you don’t suffocate them. Many are concerned when the pastor isn’t at the youth service every meeting, or constantly in your business. Take that as a compliment! It means your pastor trust you! They don’t have to constantly watch over you. If your pastor is involved but not constantly over your shoulder, that’s probably a good thing.
9. Don’t Get Caught in Theory
There will always be another book on: how to speak to students, how to maximize your youth ministry, how to be a better minister, etc. etc. I’m not opposed to learning, in fact I encourage it. But don’t get caught up in theory that you forget or miss what God wants you to do in your situation. Be who God made you to be, no one else.
10. Get Rid of Arrogance
Youth ministry doesn’t need you. It’s only by the grace of God that you are able to be involved in something this big. Remember, humility goes along way. Be willing to learn and remember what scripture says about the humbled.
Stay in it for the long run! There will be times you want to throw in the towel. Don’t do it. Stick it out and see what God may be doing. There will be times you are called to leave, but make sure it’s God and not just because things got tough or didn’t work out the way you thought. Remember, don’t try to save the world in one week. It normally takes a year or two just to get your foundation established.
Connect with other youth leaders. Exchange ideas, borrow ideas, or steal them! There’s nothing new under the sun! Don’t feel bad for getting an idea from some one else. That’s all teaching is…learning from someone and then teaching it to someone else in a way that fits who you are. Networking can keep you fresh, fueled, and ready to go! Don’t forget to connect with other adults in your church. Yes, you’re in charge of students, but the adults would like to get to know you as well! They often make fine resources later down the road too!
13. Don’t Compare
Comparison will lead to two things: Pride or Guilt. Pride meaning “Oh yeah, my ministry is doing better than the one down the street!” or guilt meaning, “Oh man, they’re doing way better than me.” Nothing good comes from it. Remember, we are in the same cause.
14. Love the One’s You Have
The numbers game get’s played too many times in youth ministry. Sure, you want to see numbers increase to indicate growth (evangelism). But think of this, while you’re busy thinking of how much more youth you would like to have (that’s not there), you’re neglecting the ones that are actually there needing you’re love and time. Be trustworthy and responsible for the students God gives you and let him do the rest….Seems like Jesus may have said something like that one time…Hm?
15. Speak the Gospel
Give students the full Gospel. Give them the Bible. What they crave most is God, even if they don’t know it yet. Don’t fall into the trap of not teaching students the Bible. After all, that’s a main way God speaks and grows us right? Give it to them!
Feel free to take this or leave it. These are things I’ve learned/learning and have implicated into my (God’s) ministry. Hope it helps! Thank you for investing in teenagers. May you never grow weary of serving students.