I think there is a common pitfall for those of us in youth ministry, and it’s addressed in a passage of Scripture that you might not commonly think about.
Psalm 33:1-4 says: “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does” (NIV).
Did you miss it? Look back at the words, “play skillfully.” That one’s for us. In youth ministry, it is so easy to get in a rut. We get a system or pattern down of how things work, and we settle for doing things halfway. It might not be excellence, but it at least gets us by. Students are sharp enough to catch on when we aren’t approaching what we do with skill.
Here are some steps to becoming more skillful in student ministry:
- Spend time in preparation—don’t just wing it. We have probably all sat in a Sunday school class or Bible study where the leader or teacher shows up, opens up their guide and basically reads it word for word. It soon becomes obvious that the leader isn’t prepared. In my mind, if a leader won’t invest his or her time to prepare, then is the message or event important enough to listen to or participate in?
- Look at your calendar. Your calendar indicates what are the most important things in your ministry. What does your calendar say about how much effort you are putting into pursuing excellence?
- Observe others. It is very important that we inspect other youth ministries that are successful and doing well. Don’t compare your ministry to theirs, but evaluate what is being done successfully and see how it will work in the context of your ministry.
- Learn. Learn from God by spending time with Him. Learn from reading some good practical books on youth ministry and leadership. Learn from other youth ministries.
We need to make sure that what we do in ministry, we strive to do skillfully.