Leader 2 Leader
TWENTY-EIGHT THINGS EVERY YOUTH PASTOR SHOULD KNOW TO STAY IN THE GAME
Wed, 15 Apr 2009 - 12:24 PM CST
These veterans offer valuable advice to those in youth ministry:
1. Do not be a lone ranger. “You cannot try to do everything yourself or you will burn out quickly. Recruit a team to gather around you so you can share the vision and help it spread and grow,” Riddle says.
2. Put a system in place. Mayo explains, “If you desire growth, you must have a small group format or something that retains those kids and builds friendship with the visitors so when they come in, they are engrafted. The surveys tell you that the number one thing today’s youth culture is looking for in a youth group, bar none, is a warm, inviting atmosphere.”
3. Wait for the right leadership before starting new programs. “I made the mistake of trying to implement a lot of new programs with the students before I had adequate leadership for them,” Covington-Taylor admits. “I ended up getting ministries going when I had the energy and I was all excited, but then when I started getting tired and worn out, the ministries were still there.”
4. Get your students involved in outreach. Mayo says, “Focus on strategic outreach about once every 6 to 8 weeks. Start promoting probably 3 weeks out.”
5. Light a missions fire in your students. “Take your youth group on a missions trip at least once a year,” Covington-Taylor advises. Get your students involved in Speed the Light, a ministry that helps purchase vehicles and equipment for missionaries. (To find out about trips available through Ambassadors in Mission, the AG short-term missions program for students, go to http://www.aim.ag.org.)
6. Recognize your students’ gifts and help them become leaders. “I am having my first generation of 18- to 19-year-olds who want to be leaders. I am trying to train them and give them responsibilities,” Baez states. In the beginning, he did not have any leaders. Now he has four students who have stepped up, and the younger students see them as role models. Programs such as Bible Quiz (http://www.biblequiz.ag.org) or Fine Arts (http://www.faf.ag.org) are available to help your students discover their ministry gifts and become great leaders.
7. Look at your youth service through the eyes of a student. “Many times we want teenagers to invite their friends to our youth group, but they are embarrassed of the youth service,” Mayo says. “We are singing songs about being washed in the blood of the Lamb — that is, blood from an animal. I am not trying to water down my charismatic message, but we need to look at the words we choose as we present it. Occasionally, I rewrite phrases in worship choruses.”
8. Get to know the kids before you make any changes. “For long-term success when you are coming into an established youth group, it is essential to get to know the kids first before you come in with a lot of changes and rules,” Baez reveals.
9. Choose your battles. “I am a person of conviction and principle. I do not sweat the ‘gray issues’ or the small stuff. I choose what I go to war over,” remarks Mayo.
10. Work on building trust and relationships with your kids. John Keers says, “A lot of people think that kids do not want adult involvement, but what I have learned more than anything is that they do, so ask, How hard is it to sit around a campfire and cook hot dogs? We cannot go in and present the gospel until they trust us. Why should they listen to us if we are not listening to them?”
11. Determine when you need to be a coach and when you need to be a companion. Mayo describes coaching as happening when a youth minister serves as cheerleader, spiritual director, and pastor. The companion is a friend or buddy. “It is important to understand that there are times when you need to decide what you need to be to your kids,” says Mayo.
12. Do not be too idealistic. “Having a youth group is not like having a Chia pet,” Riddle says. “You do not just add a little water, in a day or so it starts to grow, and everything is how you dreamed it would be. This is where young youth pastors get weary, disenchanted, and feel like they have tapped themselves out.”
13. Keep your promises. “I never talked about an event that I was not sure was really going to happen just because the kids in my group had so many promises broken to them,” Covington-Taylor says.
14. Love the kids more than you love yourself. Linda Keers believes “It is easier to build up young boys and girls than to repair men and women. You have this time to invest in their lives. We need to take it seriously.”
15. Show your family they are a priority. “My kids knew that Jesus was first priority for me and Sam and that Sam and I were each other’s second priority. [Our sons] came third, but they knew they were way above the ministry … [my sons] always won,” Mayo says.
16. Do not ignore the command to have a Sabbath day off. Covington-Taylor says, “If you are a single person, people will take advantage of the fact you do not have family commitments. You need to learn to say no and have boundaries.”
17. Pray your guts out. “Get a team to support your kids in intercession,” John Keers advises. “Find all those sweet little ladies in the church who just pour their hearts out to God, get close to them, and hook up with them because prayer support is all about warfare and that is the strategy.”
18. Seek out mentoring opportunities. “If you see a student that has potential as a leader, talk to and encourage him. Just listen to him, hear what is in his heart, empower and be an advocate for him,” Zaldivar says.
19. If you do not have a mentoring relationship, read a lot. “Because I was the first single female youth pastor in my district, I did not have a true mentor relationship with someone who knew exactly what I was going through,” Covington-Taylor explains. “It was up to me to really push to achieve spiritual growth.”
20. Make friends with your district youth director. Covington-Taylor agrees that her relationship with her DYD helped her adjust as the first woman youth pastor in her district. “I think our DYD set such an incredible tone that the youth pastors were really great to me. When we started planning camps, he asked me to speak in one of the morning chapels because he wanted the girls at camp to see a woman in youth ministry. Having that support made the difference.”
21. Plug into resources like Momentum and Youth Source. “Youth Source is a network of a thousand-plus youth pastors who receive the CDs and the newsletters encouraging them in their personal lives and their youth ministry lives,” Mayo says. Momentum is a leadership ministry that provides training, materials, and a monthly e-letter specifically geared for AG youth pastors.
22. Plan to regularly attend youth workers conferences. “You will get lots of new ideas and come back refreshed,” Covington-Taylor says. For information on the national Youth Ministries 2006 Youth Workers Conference, go to http://youth.ag.org/nywc/.
23. Respect your pastor. “When our new pastor came in, he inherited us,” Baez says. “It was up to us to lift him up, respect his views and work with him. Any problems that come up always stay between him and me.”
24. Be teachable and humble. Covington-Taylor reminds youth pastors, “If you are going to have a good relationship with your senior pastor, having a teachable, humble spirit is essential.”
25. Communicate with your senior pastor and associates. “I know seniors and associates are extremely busy, but communicating vision, ministry goals, struggles, and simply spending time with each other is important,” Zaldivar says.
26. Think long-term. Riddle says, “Over the years there is enough lack of continuity in students’ lives, that, if at all possible, in God’s will, they will end with the same youth pastor they started with. They need something consistent, someone they can count on to be there for those incredibly formative years.”
27. Leaving? Set a time and honor the commitment. Covington-Taylor reflects, “I know for me it was 3 years. When the end of that time was approaching, I started praying. I told the pastor when I interviewed that I had a call to missions.” When she felt God was releasing her to go, Covington-Taylor started talking about her missions call with her students. “I did not talk about it before that time because I did not want them to feel like I was here and already talking about leaving them.”
28. Learn to grow leaders so the ministry will stay in tact, even if you move on. “When I left Rockford, I had a group of 1,000 kids in that 13 years, but I had told them I had been preparing for my exit the day I entered,” Mayo admits. “Because of that, you are going to be great, and they were.” Mayo attributes the smooth transition to having the small-group leaders, who were the real youth pastors, in place for the kids.
Amber Weigand-Buckley is managing editor of ONCOURSE magazine. ONCOURSE is the official magazine of Assemblies of God national youth ministries in partnership with The Alliance for AG Higher Education.