Hanging out in the trenches

Youth Ministry isn't for everyone

As a youth pastor, there really is nothing like a solid group of volunteers.  They are the people who work full-time jobs, raise their kids, manage their homes and then show up to youth group to be a part of the lives of teenagers.  In fact, they often do this without much appreciation by students or parents.   Yet, they faithfully serve God and love teens like Jesus.  These are the people who are there to help with whatever is needed,giving up sleep to go on retreats and going out of their way to contact students.  They sit through long graduation ceremonies, go to sporting events and visit students in the hospital.  They truly are in the trenches of youth ministry.

What could possibly go wrong?

I have talked to many youth pastors who have had trouble with their volunteers.  Sometimes there are people in that group who don’t get along with each other.  That means right away you have a serious issue to deal with.  At other times, there are volunteers who have not figured out how to disconnect themselves from teens.  These are the people who over do it by trying to be super cool and live dangerously by either their behavior or by ignoring boundaries. For example, it should go without saying that leaders don’t date anyone in the group, ever.  But, this has happened before. (not to me thankfully) These leaders might be liked, at least on the surface, but they are not really dealing with anything on a deeper level.  This type of leader makes the job of the youth pastor more about putting out fires, both literally and figuratively.  At other times there might be leaders who just aren’t reliable and willing to commit. It would be incredibly frustrating to show up to youth group and have no leaders show up.  Then there are the militant ones who maybe just don’t like the youth pastor and do everything they can to undermine the ministry.

Why does it matter?

Whatever the circumstance, it is evident that the health of the ministry will be reflected in the leadership of the group.  If the volunteer team does not like each other, does not communicate , or does not work well together for one purpose, the ministry will unravel.

What can we do?

Snow or not...leaders drive to retreat!

I work hard to help my leaders find balance and joy in serving.  I do that by taking care of a lot of the details so that they can spend their time relationally invested at youth group.  I also do that by not overloading their schedules with meetings.  Yes, we need to meet, but we don’t need to meet every week.  We can communicate without adding another meeting to their already busy schedule.

I also keep things simple by helping them to understand right up front what I am really looking for in youth ministry volunteers.  A few years back I came up with a simple way to show what I was looking for in those who serve in the youth ministry with me.  These volunteer staff members are the front line of this ministry.  They are vital to anything that we do.  But, what do they actually look like?

Our Adult Volunteers are G.R.E.A.T.

1)    They are Growing Spiritually

  1. Has a relationship with Jesus and acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus
  2. Has experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit and depends upon Him to live a holy life and to serve
  3. Is committed toward growing spiritually through Bible Study, Prayer, Church Attendance, Accountability partners etc.
  4. Is able to state some sense of calling to youth ministry

2)    They are Role Models

  1. Is above reproach and makes lifestyle choices that students can model
  2. Has some idea about current youth culture
  3. Someone who models the love of Jesus
  4. Is able to model a lifestyle of worship

3)    They are Eager to serve

  1. Wants to be a part of the ministry
  2. Has patience and a sense of humor (2 vital traits in youth ministry)
  3. Someone who likes teens and loves teens – a genuine interest in them!
  4. Know it is not about them but about teens becoming disciples of Christ
  5. Is relational with students and comfortable with themselves (be yourself)

4)    They are Available

  1. Is someone who arrives 15 minutes before youth group
  2. Is able to committed to being at youth group regularly
  3.    Goes out of their way to build relationships with teens
  4. Will call, write, and go to ball games, visit, and meet teens on their turf
  5. Know it will cost something to minister (financially and time-wise)
  6.  Willing to help out in whatever way needed

5)    They are Teachable

  1. Committed to be at all staff meetings and training events
  2. Someone who is willing to be taught in order to minister better
  3. Someone who is willing to think outside the box for new ideas- no ruts
  4. Someone who is a team player
How does this apply to everyone? 

 No matter what your role is in the church, make sure you say thank you to those who serve in various ministries.  You might not be one who will be liking and loving teenagers, but you can still thank the people who do.  By all means, pray for those who serve in children and youth ministry.  It is a hard place to serve and a most needed place to minister.  Many people run away when they see teenagers.  I run away when I see little kids.  We are all gifted and passionate about certain things.

Let’s all do our part and watch what God does to reach young people for Him.
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