Youth Ministry is a definitely a ride. It is difficult, but definitely the most rewarding thing I have been a part of. In this past year, I have learned a lot about youth ministry from events, to relationships, and to running low on E. Here are some things I have learned and tips to help newcomers, or others in general:
- You are the students’ hero. When going into youth ministry, I knew I would be their hero, because my youth pastor was mine growing up. What I found out, though, was even when I messed up the students still loved me as they did before. We all mess up and make mistakes, but your students still think you as their hero!
- Be ready for hiccups. In December, we were going to have a movie night watching the Polar Express. When literally every way failed to watch the movie, I mean EVERYTHING; the computer did not read the disc, I rented it of amazon and the movie was lagging, and my laptop randomly decided to shutdown and restart for no reason at all fifteen minutes in, I panicked because I was not prepared for it and we ended up doing some games that dragged on for awhile until parents showed up. Had I been prepared for this, I could have brought in a DVD player to play the movie on. Be ready for the hiccups, so that when one thing fails, you are ready for the next thing to take place.
- Constantly promote and communicate events to parents. The very first event that I put on for the youth ministry had way less than I had anticipated would show up. The reason being, I failed to communicate properly. I had posted on social media a few times in hopes of parents seeing the event, but regardless promotion for an event needs to be constant. Now, I send out a calendar of events to each set of parents, post regularly on social media, communicate one-on-one with parents, email parents, and update the website with the events going on. This may seem overboard, but once you reach overboard, then you have probably reached a high percentage of your parents and students.
- Recruiting volunteers is tough. Sadly, not everyone has the same passion that you have if you serve in full-time youth ministry. For me, I assumed recruiting volunteers would be easy. You just put out a list of open slots that need to be filled and people would fill those slots. What I found out, was that a few people would sign-up, but the best way to gain the leaders I needed was to call, text, email, or have a face-to-face conversation with them in what we need. What I also didn’t realize, is that your volunteer leaders are also your best recruiters and take advantage of that to help the process.
- Getting tired is a real thing. Going into my first youth ministry, I thought that I had covered the basis of avoiding burnout or getting wore down. I had read many books about burnout and thought I was a master of understanding it. The thing that I heard is that the Youth Pastor needs to be spiritually healthy and I rolled my eyes at that because I thought of course I will be since I work at a church. It is really easy to get of track from our relationships with Jesus. I would study for the lesson for Sunday, but many times I hadn’t just put time in for actual time with Jesus. I would teach about God, but then not truly be in the Word outside of that. I had already lost track of my relationship with God within the first nine months of being at the church I currently serve. My wife and I were tired and did not really like being where we were. It seemed like every Sunday was just a pain. I think it was God showing us that we need to lean on Him and not ourselves, because once we started praying and truly getting to know God again as a separate part from our responsibilities at the church, passion began to drive us again. I felt that I was discovering my calling all over again and it has been amazing ever since.
- Mentors are important. Lucky for me, my youth pastor growing up does not live too far away. I try to go visit him as often as I can because he builds in to me spiritually and professionally. He has helped me to discern what God is calling me to and has helped me out to be better professionally in youth ministry. He has helped discuss with me about programming all across the board. He has helped me to be more organized with the different ministries I oversee. The most important thing he has done, though, is let me know that he believes in me. Knowing that the guy was your hero growing up believes in you is some of the most powerful words you can hear to build you up as a person. Having a mentor is important to help you grow and learn in youth ministry, but more importantly help you grow closer to Christ.
- God loves you. As I grow closer to Jesus, the more I realize how much He loves me. God loves you a tremendous amount and the more you grow closer to Him the more you realize the calling He has given you in this life. He values you and has given you passions and gifts to use wherever you serve. That is why nearly no youth ministry is the same as the next. Keep doing what God calls you to do because He loves you and the more you discover that, the more you grow into the person He has created you to be.