It goes something like this:
- Plan for your program.
- High-five some kids as they come in.
- Say something profound in your message or class time.
- Talk up the next big event.
- Run the next event.
- Over-hype everything you did so your church is glad they hired you.
(I hope that last one rubbed you the wrong way. Either you aren’t doing that, so you’re offended… or you are doing that, and you’re offended.)
That list as a whole may be a stereotype of your pattern. If you’re a good youth worker, you’re obviously doing more than that.
- You have a broken heart over the phone calls you get from students.
- You have run out of words from the conversations you’ve had with parents.
- You have yet another meeting to explain to your church leadership something they don’t yet understand.
- You have no room left in your schedule for something you know you need to do.
(Keep in mind, some youth workers like advertising the martyrs they feel they are. Don’t become a stereotype on purpose.)
Whatever you’re doing, and whichever version of a youth worker you are, there is one potential downside to all of your effort.
You may be overlooking the opportunities you have for real, generous ministry.
Think about the moments you remember most about different people in your life. These are the times when they either made you feel alive with encouragement or depleted with criticism. You may also remember when someone snubbed you because they were too busy to even say hello.
It’s an ironic moment in ministry when a kid walks in, and we’re busy prepping for the program. Our lack of availability seems to say, “Right now, I don’t have time to have a relationship with you… because I’m doing this other thing so I can have a relationship with you.”
So what does it look like to be generous with how you invest into the teens and preteens in your ministry?
Here are 20 things you need to tell students this week (in no particular order):
- Hey… thank you for sharing the cool and random stuff from your life with me.
- I love you all and always look forward to this time with you.
- I can’t believe how many things we’ve laughed about and cried about as friends. It feels like we’re really on a journey together.
- I like seeing how you each listen to each other. Do you know that’s one of the ways God uses you to show one another His love?
- You are going to change the world somehow. You’re a leader somehow. The question is how you’ll change the world and what kind of leader you’ll allow yourself to be.
- I know some of you have it rough in life somehow. The fact that you come here and are looking for a deeper Story to live in is a miracle. Whether you realize it or not, that’s one of the ways God is answering the very prayers you pray.
- You know how we talk about those experiences from stuff that we’ve done together? Those “Remember that one time…” moments? By all means, let’s celebrate that stuff – but let’s also look for ways to let some of our newer friends form some memories with us, too.
- I learn something from you all just about every time we hang out.
- The questions you guys and gals ask? Wow. They’re amazing.
- Some of the things we talk about here won’t feel like they apply to your life. It’s because those nuggets aren’t for you, but if you remember them you’ll be the one to share them with your friends.
- Listen, I know each of you are going to blow it at some point. That won’t get in the way of our friendship. On the other hand, you also need to know that I will as a friend try to point you right back in God’s direction.
- If you ever need someone who will just hear what you have to say, I want to be one of those people.
- You will have moments that you feel weird with your parents. Don’t stop being a part of your family. You will also have moments when you feel weird with me or others here. Don’t stop being a part of church.
- I mean this as a legitimate compliment: You’re one of the most unique people I know. God poured some of His best work into you. Don’t ever doubt that.
- Some day, when you’re ready for it, I want you to ask me to sit down with you and have the most honest conversation about what I think about you. It will involve some of the best encouragement I can give you. It will also involve me talking with you with complete honesty about your blind spots, too. When we’re done with that conversation, it will be the beginning of a new friendship between us.
- How can I better understand your ideas and dreams? What can I do to listen to you better?
- There will be times that I will have your back. There will also be times that I will have your front, trying to lead you somewhere. I’ll always have your side, though – we’re on this journey together.
- You want to play a game? Let’s do something together by doing nothing together.
- One thing I really respect about you is that you’re not just putting God first in your life, but are trying to put Him first in everything. There’s a huge difference.
- You’re important. This group wouldn’t be the same without you. But never forget this – it would be nothing without Jesus. Any of us can leave and this will continue, but without God we’re just a church club, you know?
Jesus told His disciples that they were the light of the world. He also knew and proclaimed that He was the light of the world.
If you want your kids to shine, do it first… generously light them up.
(Maybe even share some of that with your fellow youth workers.)
Got any other good thoughts? Comment and add yours to the mix.
Thank you for loving students!
*Love Tony’s insight on service and youth ministry? Receive his articles every Tuesday when you sign up for the SYM Today Newsletter!*