I got the call last week that I was invited to be a sessional instructor at a local Bible College teaching Youth Ministry Philosophy in the fall. I am really excited to be returning to teach, not only to share my heart for ministry, but the chance to meet young leaders just exploring the possibility of going into vocational or volunteer youth ministry. Its so exciting to spend time with young passionate leaders ready to change the world for Christ. In many conversations I have with young leaders there is a few things that I encourage and warn them about and here are a three of them.
Find a balance early: I have seen it before, the new young youth pastor comes into town, single and ready to impact students lives, spending 40 hours a week making a great youth ministry, planning, dreaming and studying. But when the workday is over, heading off to watch a students basketball game, then a badminton tournament, teaching a bible study. Soon that 40 hour week has become 80. The challenge is that students can begin to expect that and when the single youth pastor meets a significant other and eventually transitions into marriage, it can be really hard to dial back the time expectations that students have gotten used to. Find a work life balance early, learn to go offline and be available, but not too available.
The Honeymoon period is real: If you are new in a Church, there is a certain amount of time (sometimes as much as a year) where you can do no wrong (within reason!), and if there is something you need, its time to ask for it. If the 30lb laptop that used to belong to the Senior Pastor isn’t going to work ask early for something that will suit your needs and vision. Your ideas are fresh, people want to help you get settled and build momentum, so ask for it early, as they are more likely to approve legitimate needs. Don’t be shy, but don’t be greedy.
The person before was better: (read further!) Not everyone experiences a healthy ministry hand off and you might be picking up a neglected or abandoned ministry. If so it is inevitable that no matter how poor the situation you are inheriting, that there is likely something that the person you are replacing did better than you. They may have neglected the leaders, hardly taught the Bible, slapped together events, but if the former leader was great at giving high fives, you will hear about it. Students can be guilty of romanticizing the past and their teenage honesty will have them reminding you often of the glory days from before you arrived that were not as glorious as they might think. You are you, God has equipped you to lead and placed you there, and students may have very vocal and unfair expectations of you, but try your best to not let it get to you. If you are lucky enough to inherit a ministry where the leader left really well after a great tenure, the shoes you are stepping into might be huge, just stay the course, be gracious in receiving criticism and focus on what God wants to do in the ministry.
There is something really exciting about meeting and working with young leaders, and helping them navigate through some of the pitfalls is even more rewarding when you watch them come through it and thrive.
Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself, too!