5 keys to youth ministry longevity
By Gary Sampson
1.) When dealing with young people, it is important for you to be aware of changes in music, entertainment, and education and to even be well versed in the latest fashion trends. This will enable you to effectively evaluate how these changes may affect a kids lifestyle or thought patterns. However, it is often a mistake to try to emulate the styles in order to be “cool”. Youth leaders must always be cognizant of their age, and resist the temptation to “be young” again. Trying to move outside of your own culture, can result in kids focusing more on your attempts at relating than on what you have to say. Let them laugh at your being old fashioned, it’s not as funny as seeing an adult with their hat on backwards.
2.) Being a firm believer that everything that God wants us to know, is contained in the Words of Scripture, pushes me to continue the search. People read other books for information, instruction, inspiration and enjoyment and all of that is right at our fingertips in Holy Scripture. If you do not show a love and respect for the Book, I can almost guarantee that your youth group will not. Always have it with you at meeting and outings, so that at any time it can be used. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” II Tim. 2:15
3.) It may be hard, but youth leaders or pastors are not intended to take the place of the natural family relationships that God has ordained. We are to assist in reconciling husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. There is always the danger of becoming more than a “spiritual” help, when emotions are exposed and trust is transferred. It is also difficult to rightly evaluate situations when you become a kid’s “best friend” instead of their” elder”. We have all seen counseling situations go awry because proper distance was not maintained. On a practical level, young women should always counsel with female leaders and young men with male leaders. This is not sexism, only wise and prudent action.
4.) Always remember that Jesus fed the 5,000 when they were hungry. He knew that his message would not be as effective when the natural need of food was overwhelming. There are times when teens can not see anything else when some other problem is clouding their vision. Be prepared to provide practical help with jobs, tutors to help them with their school work, loans of a couple bucks, or help with the parental relationships.
5.) It is always good to not take yourself too seriously. Any sense of self-importance will hurt your ministry. Life is hard, and sometimes laughing at your foibles and situations is good medicine for you and those around you.
This article “5 Keys to Ministry Longevity” by Gary Simpson is excerpted from Youth Ministry Longevity, July 2008.