How did you get to be successful in youth ministry?
I am going to college to get an M. Div in Pastoral Studies and I plan to be a youth minister. How do I make sure I can be successful in this? #leadership #youth #ministry #youth-ministry #youth-leadership #christian #ordained-ministry #youth-advocacy
The work of the youth minister is really about empowerment; empowering youth to develop a faith of their own, empowering families (in whatever formation) to allow their kids to grow, flourish, fail, learn (all of it), and empowering volunteers to have ownership in the program you oversee.
Youth ministry programs and the leaders that manage them are NOT sustainable if everything revolves around the person in charge. Youth ministers are not superheroes. It doesn't matter if you have one volunteer or 40, empower them (as well as the youth) to run the show with your support.
Planning at least a year in advance makes the work so much easier. Keep records on how everything gets done - for example, if you have a fall retreat, keep your records and create a "how-to" notebook that you could hand to someone else and it could serve as a starting place for planning next year's retreat. Do this for all events and regular programming.
Finally, it really is about the students. My experience is that building meaningful relationships with students yields far more fruit than messy games or flashy events. Not that those things don't have a place, but IMHO they should not be the center of the church's youth programming.
I was in charge of a large program and there was no way I could build meaningful relationships with all youth - that's okay! That's why it is important to empower adults & volunteers to build relationships. In many ways, my volunteers were my youth group and they, in turn, focused on the youth.
I loved working with students and in the church. I did decide in my mid-40s that I needed to move on (I just wasn't as creative as I used to be). I changed careers but will always be thankful for the students, families, and volunteers I served with along the way.
Prior to becoming a family therapist, I was a youth director in a large church for several years. It was hugely successful in terms of numbers, reports from adults in congregation, and after training my successor, it is still going strong 8 years later, exactly how I developed it. My suggestion would be to make sure you have a long-term (5-10+ year) plan, so regardless how long you're there, they will continue strong. Keep the focus that you're teaching youth, so they can become adult members of the church. Many youth ministers make the mistake of putting themselves as the center of the ministry, when it should never be about you. Your job is to connect the youth to one another, to adult mentors and volunteers, and to God. That's how they get involved and stay in the church long-term. If they only show up for flashy lights, cool events, or to see you, once that's gone, their faith may be gone too. Build as many adult volunteers into the program as possible, so the kids have plenty of mentors and points of view to learn from, plus it means less day-to-day work for you. Burnout is extremely high, so be sure to take care of yourself in healthy and meaningful ways. This is what I learned in my experience, and I hope it is helpful for you.