Maybe you've heard the statistic (which is perhaps mythical) that most youth ministers only stick with a position for 3-5 years. Whether or not this is true, the fact is some youth pastors don't even keep a position for six months because they fail to do a few simple things.
Not to be too crass about it, but in this economic climate few of us want to risk losing our ministry positions. Of course, there are more important reasons for wanting to be effective in ministry than simply just keeping our jobs. My first youth ministry position some twenty years ago began as a temporary opportunity to help out my church: "Would you be our interim youth minister for six months while we search for a permenant person?" I agreed...and eleven years later I was still there as the youth pastor. Though I definitely made some mistakes along the way (and narrowly avoided being fired in my first year) I learned a few things about what makes for effective church-based youth ministry:
1) Communicate - Tell others what you are doing. How many of us in youth ministry get so caught up in programming activities that we forget to make sure that others know what we are up to? Communicating what we are doing ensures some accountablilty on our end and helps to create a core group of advocates for the youth ministry. Who do we need to "keep in the loop" regarding our ministry efforts/challenges/successes? Start with your senior pastor, parents, other youth volunteers, and the church board. Share with them the upcoming calendar of events, post articles in the church newsletter or even publish your own youth ministry newsletter. Keep things updated on your church website and Facebook pages. Even if the board doesn't request a monthly youth report, submit one anyway. If your senior pastor doesn't ask to meet with you on a regular basis, ask to meet with her. And call a parents' meeting at least twice a year.
2) Diversify – Make your presence known in the church beyond just your work with the youth. Though some congregations may want to relegate you only to tasks specifically related to youth ministry, it will only benefit your youth to see you involved in the wider ministry of the church. So, you might request to be involved with the outreach team, teach a children's Christian education class, attend/teach a small group adult Bible study, join the choir, or serve as a regular leader in worship.
3) Share – Don't keep the youth all to yourself. Get the youth involved with other adults and ministries within the church. Doing so helps to create the understanding that, though you oversee the youth ministry efforts, care of the youth is the responsibility and privilege of the entire congregation. Encourage adults outside of your regular volunteer team to help out with a youth event, provide a meal, or come lead a program. Encourage your youth to join church committees or help with worship planning. Look for opportunities to create intergenerational experiences to bring the youth and the other adults in the church together for study, fellowship, and worship.
4) Connect – Get involved with other churches and ministries outside your church. My early years in ministry were really helped when I started developing partnerships with other nearby churches, planning events together, visiting each other's churches, and finding colleagues in these fellow youth workers.
5) Focus - Don't get distracted by the need to entertain. Your calling to ministry isn't to juggle fire and be a stand-up comic so that your students don't get bored. Focus on the real work of helping teens explore their faith story, asks questions, open up their lives to moments of worship, and get their hands dirty by engaging in real outreach and mission. When these elements become the focus of your ministry, rather than planning the next paintball outing or giant party, you will help your congregation see both the value of your ministry and the true value of the church's ministry with youth.