Its now four months since I left my last church staff position. Its been a roller coaster of opportunities and some letdowns along the way. This has been the longest gap between serving on staff at a church in 14 years. There has not been the “normal” of searching and interviewing for another church position, as I have followed another calling. In this time to reflect, I have learned a few things about youth ministry and church life from “outside the staff bubble”. I’ll share four of them.
1) We say relationships are important, but the right ones are even more important – As youth workers, its so easy to burn your emotional capital, time, and energy on “making” that parent, deacon, or even the Senior Pastor like you. That is not why God called you to serve. He called you to love students. He has called you to share Christ with them, and show them how to share Christ with their friends. These students need you. The deacons, the Senior Pastor, even parents can have other outlets for their “stress”. Don’t get sucked in.
2) The kingdom is SO much bigger than your congregation – As a youth worker, I tried to work with other area youth leaders to reach as many of the students as we could in our community. At the end of the day, everyone goes back to their own churches with their own vested interests. Not saying this is totally a bad thing, but it is a reality. Everyone has a commitment to their own little castle, where the Kingdom is so much bigger. In the last four months of visiting and sharing with churches about the ministry of unity that NNYM seeks, I have seen a lot of people that truly love God. I have seen many that seek to partner with other churches and expand the Kingdom by working together to spread the Gospel. I have also seen those that want that, as long as those who are saved come to “their church” *facepalm*
3) Teenagers want YOU, and their parents… Teenagers are needy, and if channelled properly, can be a huge catalyst to spiritual maturity. They want to see you model an authentic faith. They want their parents to love them, not because they excel at sports, academics, or “church stuff”, but because of the parent-child bond of love. No more, no less. As a youth leader, we are there to HELP parents fulfill Deuteronomy 6, not replace them in the process. Youth Leader, you are there to help provide a Godly and mature influence to help guide students through the teenage years and build their spiritual maturity. which leads to…
4) The need of games, programming, and tech is greatly overstated– I hate to write this point. I love great curriculum. I love using tech to teach students the unchanging message of the Gospel with modern tools. When you have these tools and resources, and are using them properly, it can make youth group be so smooth, so polished. Unfortunately, its also too easy to rely on the tools, and forget the work of the Holy Spirit.
I hope these points can serve as some information to encourage those still “on the inside”. We are in this together. I want to see you do well.