We wear many different hats in youth ministry. The job requires a myriad of responsibilities and duties that have an ever-widening scope as youth culture expands and changes. Here are a few youth ministry hats, off the top of my head:
Teacher/Educator. Creating lessons, choosing curriculum, training volunteers on how to lead discussions, and initiating programs. Preaching and teaching are central aspects of youth ministry; I don’t know of a single healthy youth ministry leader who doesn’t preach or teach in some way. For many, this is the primary hat they wear.
Event Coordinator. Overnighters, dodgeball tournaments, movie nights and week-long camps. Each of these requires hours of planning and prep work in order to be successful, and the youth worker is the one coordinating it all. This doesn’t mean they have to do it all alone (delegation is key). It does mean the responsibility of planning successful events falls on their shoulders.
Worship Leader. How many of us have learned how to play basic chords on guitar so we can lead worship for our group? Whether it’s at camp, at a mid-week gathering or in the main service on Sunday, music and worship are often part of our role. Many churches combine the youth ministry/worship roles in the job description.
Sound Technician. Being in youth ministry means knowing your way around a sound board. Unless you’re some sort of Luddite, you’ll need to know what all those little knobs and dials and lights do to make the microphones turn on. Also, every youth ministry sound system I’ve ever used was the 20-year-old hand-me-down from the main worship service, meaning troubleshooting came with it.
Graphic Designer. You want a cool-looking graphic for your upcoming teaching series? Better figure out how to use that Adobe software. While larger churches may have folks fully committed to creating the graphics for all the church needs, most do not. It’s up to the youth ministry leader to find or create.
Website/I.T. Related to graphic design, many of the youth ministry leaders I know also have responsibility for the church website, blogs or the I.T. aspects of their church system. Perhaps it’s because technology is such a big part of the emerging generation that we naturally gravitate toward this.
Counselor. While most of us are not professional, licensed counselors, we have more than our fair share of one-on-one conversations where sacred space is explored. People share their intimate stories and secrets, their hopes and fears, their wounds and desires. It’s a beautiful facet of our role.
Researcher/Sociologist. Knowing and understanding youth culture is key in youth ministry. From being on school campuses to researching the latest trends in culture (The Youth Culture Report is a fantastic resource for this), we are studying the systems, structures and values of the young people around us.
Janitor. After every single time I gather a group of young people together, I inevitably have to pick up some sort of garbage—food wrappers, half-finished soda cans or water bottles, dead animals, etc. I’m not complaining; it’s just part of the job. Students and volunteers often help me clean and tidy up, and it’s wonderfully humbling.
For me, there’s one hat that can often get covered up by all the others. Yet it is the single most important hat in the whole bunch. It is the source of my vocational calling, part of my identity and soul:
The word in Greek refers to a shepherd. The shepherd lovingly cares for the flock, protecting them from danger and guiding them to green pastures. Whether your job title refers to you as pastor or not, it is still a sacred calling in youth ministry. It is not simply a job description or a title; it is an identity, a vocation, a gift. It is more than fixing people’s problems or planning great programs; it is Jesus and soul work.
I am a pastor. I am a husband and a father. I am a child of God and a citizen of His kingdom. These are the hats that need to be closest to my head, the ones that need to shape and form my identity. The other hats are transferable and may change with time and fashion. I want these hats to last.
What hats are you currently wearing? Which ones are the most important? Which ones need to change?