Once you become a youth worker, it won’t take long for you to discover: You. Need. Help! One key ingredient in a healthy youth ministry is a team of caring adults. For the longest time, we tried to recruit young, funny, musical, athletic, attractive, cool, wealthy adults with big swimming pools and lots of free time on their hands. We learned the hard way our list was both shallow AND impossible to find. As we’ve grown, we’ve matured our criteria to recruit the kind of adult students really need.
Students need adults in their lives who aren’t afraid to wade into the mess.
Plenty of adults are willing to point out students’ failures, but not as many adults are willing to walk with students through the aftermath. Failure is uncomfortable, painful, and messy. Healthy youth ministries have adults who aren’t fazed by the chaos and are willing to love students before, during, and after their failures.
Students need adults in their lives who offer them real, legitimate encouragement.
Many students hear little-to-no positive words on a daily basis, and what they do hear is often superficial and performance-related. Healthy youth ministries have adults who offer students the kind of encouragement that gives them courage to take on Kingdom-of-God-sized risks and dare to follow Jesus in their messy and overwhelmingly critical, teenage world.
Students need adults in their lives who help them discover and live out their true identity – the person God created them to be.
We believe this kind of identity is realized most often in one-on-one or small group settings, and we’ve uncovered a super snazzy formula: a student + a caring adult + the spirit of Jesus + time = a student who is connected to Jesus and a caring adult. The questions we like to ask students are:
(a) What breaks your heart? (credit Tim Eldred for this one)
(b) What inspires you to work harder?
(c) What do you want people to know about you?
(d) What is your God-dream?
At the risk of making a colossal understatement, adolescence is a challenging season of life. As you reflect on your own teenage-messed-up-punk-life, think of the adults who looked beyond your mess and had the most profound impact. We’re guessing their impact wasn’t because they were young, funny, musical, athletic, attractive, cool, wealthy adults with big swimming pools and lots of free time on their hands, but instead, that team of caring adults saw your heart, loved you well, and led you to Jesus.
Thanks for loving students,
Tim & Tasha