Youth Ministry has always been a passion of mine. From the countless hours I spent as a middle and high school student to the time spent getting my Bachelor’s in Youth Ministry, God has drawn me to students. During my time at Indiana Wesleyan University, I began my first full-time role at a local church in Marion, IN. I spent 8 years there before my wife and I moved to the suburbs of Detroit. After 2 years, my time there was clearly coming to an end and I began a conversation with Geoff Eckart to join the team here at Never The Same. While I still consider myself in full-time Youth Ministry, clearly the work is very different!
This year, I (along with Jayson, a coworker, and friend at Never The Same) was presented with the opportunity to jump back into the Youth Pastor role after 7 years out of the day-to-day church world, while still holding down my position at Never The Same. This has given me a little perspective that I didn’t have in my first go around. Here’s what God has been teaching me:
Be careful with change
A lot of us know this, we were taught it in school or a wise mentor has given us the sage wisdom. Perhaps you read it in one of the books that you devoured as you prepared for your first Youth Pastor gig. I was told to make change slowly, make 20% of the change you want each year and you’ll get to 100% of the change in 5 years. Well, that advice is really good, but not always practical. In this new role, Jayson and I came storming in with a lot of change that we truly couldn’t control. We were new to the role, we were combining middle and high school ministries, the Lead Pastor had recently changed, as well as a few other smaller things. With all of this change came unforeseen issues that thankfully were brought to our attention by our awesome students and amazing adult leaders. If they hadn’t spoken up, we would likely not have known and just continued pushing forward. If you find yourself in a situation where there has been a lot of change recently, whether you caused it or it was forced on you, take the time to see how your students and adult leaders are doing with it. Then be attentive and not dismissive of the words they share with you, it will go a long way!
Over my 10 years of full-time Youth Ministry, I remember all of the weekly things that would take my attention. Whether it was figuring out the graphics for the message, the games, is the snack bar full, did I report everything I needed to from last week, did an email go out to parents, did I communicate what we’re doing this week with the adult leaders or any of the insane number of to-dos we all have. Jumping back into Youth Ministry this year has shown me that simplicity matters for my sanity. What are the tasks that are most important? Let’s focus on those and let some of the other stuff fall to the wayside. Each one of us is going to prioritize different things, but let me give you my list for this year:
- Services are the same template so there is consistency for me, Jayson, and the students.
- Adult leaders are very important in discipling our students, so we spend time on them.
- Games are a great inroad to our students, so we take time to plan and do them well.
- Community amongst our group (we realized this after conversations about the changes), so we try to create intentional space each week or at the very least, monthly for students to just hang out with no agenda.
- Teaching what the main service is teaching is something that has helped us tremendously. We haven’t had to plan out our schedule, it is done for us. Students and parents are hearing the same basic principles each week, which creates intentional conversation starters at home.
Are you feeling overwhelmed with your workload or feeling like you just don’t have enough time to get things done each week. Figure out what the main things are for your ministry and then focus your time on those. The other things will work themselves out.
Youth Ministry is hard
This is an obvious realization, but to all of you who are following your calling and leading students, our hats are off to you! Youth Ministry is hard and sometimes even that is an understatement, but it is also one of the most rewarding and definitely most fulfilling jobs on the planet. If you’re having a hard time in your ministry, please know that you are not alone. All of us have struggles, all of us have hard times. It’s what you do with those moments that will help define your longevity in Youth Ministry and I pray that all of us are in it for the long haul, our students deserve it!
Director of Operations & Communication
Youth Pastor – Daybreak Church