Earlier this week I hosted an online meeting with a few members from my Coaching Network (a network for youth workers who have been in the field 5 years or less). One of the things we discussed during our time together was what we’ve learned in Youth Ministry in our first 2 years. I thought I would share the Top 5 lessons learned that came up during that conversation.
Top 5 Lessons Learned (in Youth Ministry) in First Two Years:
1. Take time for rest and recreation – It’s very easy to be overcome with your responsibilities on the job. One of the key lessons you’ll learn in your first few years in ministry is to take time for rest and recreation. Make sure you don’t cheat yourself of solitude anda sabbath. This is an issue for many ministers, so it might be a good thing to get someone to hold you accountable.
2. Your students aren’t ‘stupid’ kids – Can you remember the first time that you’ve seen the students you lead as young people that God can use and not just “kids”? One of the things that made our list is learning that our students can be ministers. This is actually why I am such a huge advocate for student-led ministry. When you allow students to lead you see what amazing things God can do through them more clearly.
3. Know your boundaries – Many of the lessons you’ll learn in your first few years in youth ministry you’ll actually need to recall for years to come. One of the most valuable lessons you’ll learn is about the importance of boundaries. Creating and respecting boundaries will not only protect you (and others) but will help keep you in ministry for the long haul. Without question one of the most important boundaries: don’t counsel someone of the opposite sex alone.
4. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to befriend your Pastor – You might find yourself working in a ministry where your Lead Pastor pursues you… but not everyone can say that. Quite often you might need to befriend your pastor. You would think this wouldn’t be an issue in ministry but it is. In fact, one of the biggest reasons youth workers leave their positions is because of the relationship (or lack thereof) with their pastor. Even if you are working for a mega-church and can’t really build a relationship with the Senior Leader you can do this with your direct reports. It’s refreshing to work in an environment when you have a great relationship with your Lead Pastor. I’ve worked with some pastors who were distant and others that I found easier to build a relationship with. In both cases I know there were opportunities missed for me to be a great friend (and minister) to my pastor.
5. Remember that God has chosen you – Youth workers often have a hard time in ministry. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked personally “when will you pursue a ‘real pastor position’?” This goes to show you how ignorant people are — seriously. In the thick of ministry you may struggle and wonder if you are too inexperienced, not good enough, and how you’ll ever make it another day. Never forget… if God has chosen you that is all that matters. Cling to the truth of God’s calling on your life.
I’d love for you to be a part of my next Coaching Network… launching in January. Registration opens next week! Feel free to drop me an email right now if you would like more information. The Youth Worker Coaching Network is sponsored by: Simply Youth Ministry, Bethel Students, and interlinc! If you want to join my team of sponsors, contact me.
What did you learn in your first few years?