At the end of every year, millions of people take time to look back at the previous year and then look forward to the future. It is a time to see what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to change in order to make this next year run smoother and more efficient. As for the youth worker, making resolutions is a great way to accomplish your goals. Just be sure to keep them…
In my early years of a youth worker, I had always thought that the most important part of youth ministry was to get students coming to youth group and Sunday school. To make that happen, I thought I needed an entertaining night/morning, great games, comfy couches, and a pool table. After about three months, I realized that I was accomplishing my goal to get students in the church doors but failing to provide the Gospel. I was reminded that sharing the Gospel at every opportunity is the most important part of youth ministry! Share the Gospel message at every event. It does not have to be new or jazzed up, but it does need to be consistent. You never know when someone may be ready to receive it. It is our job to provide it.
As a youth worker, you need to continually be taking care of your spiritual needs. If you are pouring out into students, you need to be filled up. Daily reading of the Bible is one way that you can be poured into. If you expect to share the Gospel, you have to know the Gospel. The best way to know it is to read it, study it, and apply it. It also sets an example we want our students to follow.
Love should be a great way to define Christianity, but it often is not. It is by God’s love that we are saved. God has commanded us to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. God’s love for His sheep has no limits. It has no end. I have often seen youth workers and Christians in general say that they love their neighbors, yet it has limits. They love the people in their life, yet they are not willing to go the extra mile for them. It is a convenient love. Youth workers must extend their love to all students without limits. We do not simply love someone to win souls, but because we adapt God’s compassion in our lives. Developing a genuine compassion for youth should stem from an understanding of the compassion God has had and continues to have on us. If are love is played out in a way that only seeks to win souls to Christ or make us look good in front of the sr. pastor, then we are not really loving. We are merely looking good to those around us.
Students are looking for someone to be real. Be open with who you are. You don’t have to put on a show. If you mess up, be honest about it. It will show students that you are relatable. Be happy with who God created you to be.
Missions are often known by students as the one week trip to Mexico with the youth group. You go to Mexico, build a church, and then spend a day at Disneyland. While a one-week mission trip can be great for helping students understand poverty and difficulty, a single week out of 52 is not fulfilling the Great Commission. Teach students to understand missions should be happening year round. It is in their schools, their homes, and even their churches. Encourage students to remember that missions takes place in their life now, not just in Mexico. Lastly, encourage students to be involved with missions all year long.
Passing on responsibility should be one of your main goals as a youth worker. We are called to make disciples. We want to equip students with tools to be leaders within their peer groups, schools, and families. Pray and choose 6-12 students to meet with 1-2 times a month. Give them responsibilities within youth group and events as well. This will give them ownership and the ability to meet a high level that you set for them.
If you have more than 8 students in your group, you need help. The more people you have pouring into the lives of students, the more students will be able to be filled up. Recruit quality people who want to work with youth. Give them responsibilities. You will most likely have to teach and train them. Set up quarterly meetings where you can give them direction as to what they need from you and what you expect of them. Cast your vision upon them. You want people to help you make your vision become reality.
While the world is rapidly changing, it is important to stay in tune with where it is and where it may be going. This does not mean that you have to like it or conform to it. It does mean we need to understand how to work the Gospel into a world in a relevant way. In order to be effective, we must proclaim the Gospel message in a way that students can understand it. We need to be able to apply life application in a way that is challenging and engaging.
In order to stay focused, it may help to change up routines. Routines can often become a way of living. Youth workers often run into an inability to keep focused on reaching students. Programming, meetings, and dealing with parents becomes habit. Change up your normal week. Go to a new coffee house for your study. Establish a day of prayer every month. Get outside!
Burnout seems to be a huge factor within youth work. It is quite often a thankless job that involves dealing with more church politics than wanted or necessary. When doubt, frustration, and depression kick in, remind yourself that it is worth it. When all is finished and you stand before God, you will hear the words “well done my good and faithful servant.” That is worth fighting for. Those words are worth the fight. We do this not for earthly gain but because He is worthy!
Originally Published December 31, 2009