One of the most difficult obstacles I had when I started out in youth ministry was overcoming the feeling of being patronized by parents and adult volunteers. Â Some of my feelings were due to a bruised ego because I thought I knew it all. Â But, the rest of my feelings wereÂ legitimateÂ because people did not see me as a professional. Â They saw me as a youth minister; however, they didn’t see the professionalism in this industry.
What needed to change? Â Simple, how I was presenting myself. Â While there will always be people who will talk down to and treat those younger than them with inferiority, there are a few steps you can take to be seen as a professional. Â They might be hard to embrace because of youth ministry’s push to be relational. Â And relational can still be professional, in fact it should be. Â In order to improve the ways you are treated, embrace these four steps:
- Dress Appropriately:Â This means two things. Â First, it means dressing for your audiences. Â Make sure how you are dressed makes your company feel comfortable. Â How would a student feel if you were always wearing a shirt and tie? Â How would parents feel if all they saw you in was shorts, ball cap and t-shirt? Â Secondly, it means making sure what you wear is clean, ironed, and appropriate. Â It’s not about having the latest fashions or dressing to impress. Â When you dress well you show others that you are organized, ready and focused.
- Prepare For Meetings: Whether it’s a meeting for volunteers, parents or coworkers make sure you prepare and follow an agenda so that it’s worth their time. Â If you are hosting the meeting start and end on time. Â If you are attending a meeting make sure you are not late. Â Lastly, be sure your materials are in order and that your not constantly checking your phone.
- Communicate Professionally: Â Once you are out of college it’s time to put the fancy fonts, funky email address and clever voicemail greetings away. Â Make your emails clear and scannable. Â Respond to your voicemails promptly. Â Have someone edit your letters. Â And if giving a message or speech practice, practice and practice. Â When you can communicate clearly, people will respond well.
- Be Fiscally Responsible:Â When you are responsible with your budget it shows church members that you care about their investment in God’s kingdom. Â That means researching the resources you purchase and knowing when to make sacrifices. Â If you take care of what has been given to you, you will be blessed. Â People will trust you and God will reward your stewardship.
The push back for some is that youth ministry needs to have a “Come As You Are” type of attitude. Â If you come off careless, disheveled and haphazard who is going to trust you with their teens? Â A certain level of professionalism will improve the relationships you have with the people that invest in your ministry and make it happen. Â Let them know that you can be trusted.
How else can we be more professional in youth ministry? Â Do you think I’m being too harsh?