Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    5 Keys to Staying Effective in Your Youth Ministry Job

    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) DiversifyMake 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) ShareDon'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) ConnectGet 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.


    -- Brian

    8 comments:

    jeremy zach said...

    lol. this is a great list. i am really guilty of not making my presence known outside of the youth ministry realm. I tend to be too focused on the "youth", that I forget about the entire church body.

    Brian said...

    I hear you, Jeremy. This is a lesson that it took me a long time to learn. I remember the other pastors on staff being surprised when I started submitting written reports to the church board, which they didn't do. But it was important for me to raise the profile of the ministry by being more involved with the church board. Relatedly, I think the congregation began to see the youth program in a more serious way when I started interacting with them in a variety of ways, beyond just being the "youth guy." THanks for commenting!

    Rev Jilly said...

    I'm a pastor of a DOC church with an associate minister in charge of youth and young adults.....I recommended this list to him. It's such a strong thing, being visual outside of your own ministry....doing things not because it's your job, but because you care about the church in general. It's the best way to a)secure your job, b) gain support for the job you're doing.

    Good work!

    Rev Jilly said...

    I'm a pastor of a DOC church with an associate minister in charge of youth and young adults.....I recommended this list to him. It's such a strong thing, being visual outside of your own ministry....doing things not because it's your job, but because you care about the church in general. It's the best way to a)secure your job, b) gain support for the job you're doing.

    Good work!

    Brian said...

    I'm glad the list is useful. It took years in youth ministry for me to realize how important it is to be accountable and to see our role beyond the week-to-week youth group calendar.

    Sanctorum Communio said...

    yes! this is a great list. I have been at a Church for six years and I cannot tell you how important Communication has been. I feel like I do a terrible job about this, but I know the success has been had when I do communicate. thanks for the longevity pointers!

    JayMcPherson said...

    I have been serving at as youth pastor, and now recently as youth/associate pastor, for almost 6 years. My office is on the other side of the church than that of my sr. pastor. If I do not initiate contact with him, he would not communicate. While I appreciate and enjoy the freedom, I find that it is difficult not to take advantage of it. For example, there are times/days where I will slack off and I know that no one will ask me what I am up to. Please don't think I am trying to pass the blame, I am the one at fault. Any thoughts? Suggestions?

    Brian Kirk said...

    Jay, I appreciate your honesty and I imagine many of us can relate. Do you by chance attend church board meetings or have to provide a monthly report of some kind to the church? If not, I'd recommend doing both, and at least for awhile use the report as a way to detail how you've spent your time over the last month (e.g. a bulleted list of of all your activities, how many youth you called, visited, contacted, etc). Regarding a sr. pastor who won't communicate -- that's a tough one. Could you find another member of the staff, or another local pastor who might be willing to meet with you as colleagues to talk about your ministry on a regular basis? Doing so helps accountability. Peace!