Youth ministry can be one of the most rewarding places of ministry in the church. It is led by great men/women of God who pour their heart and soul into walking with teens who are experiencing the growing pains between childhood to adulthood. Despite all the rewarding fulfillment of serving alongside teen ministry, there are a great number of youth leaders who are struggling in their church leadership position. Senior Pastor, here’s what your youth pastor wants you to know:
- The youth ministry is not a parachurch. This group of young people is a portion of the church ministry. The vision, the mission, the goals of the youth ministry do not need to be created by the youth pastor/director. You are the man/woman of God appointed to lead the church. Everything flows from you. What is your vision, mission, goals for the youth ministry? Your youth pastor wants to have creative freedom to explore what you have already set in place, not create a whole new ministry. Saying to your YP, “welcome! It’s a clean slate, do whatever you want with the youth, I fully support you” is honestly NOT what they want to hear. No one wants a micromanager, so don’t misinterpret this, however the YP wants to know that they are leading a group of teens in the direction of the larger body. It is their heart that teens will easily flow from kids ministry to youth ministry to adult ministry without turmoil, because everything is under the same leadership direction that was given to you.
- The youth leader desires discipleship. Honestly, who doesn’t? Jesus sought the wisdom of His father. Jesus poured into those around Him. It’s the model we should purpose to follow. Your youth pastor wants to sit in a conversation with you and discuss what he/she is reading, time in the word, prayer life, etc. This is not meant to be a “to-do” on the job description. This is an intentional time where you bond together over life and the word. You intentionally pray together and seek wisdom. In this moment you are not the boss, you are a mentor. Just as much as they are a church leader or possibly staff person, they are also your sheep. Are you shepherding them like the rest of the flock? Truth is, they need more shepherding than most, as they are also shepherding those around them.
- Shepherding means they get to share their struggles.We are foolish to think that Senior Pastors and Youth Pastors are without struggle. I know we might present that picture, but let’s be real. When a place of trust is created between the senior pastor and youth leader, opportunities will arise for them to be real and admit their struggles.
“Don’t be so quick to judge them because they are in a place of leadership, but be quick to jump in and love them even more because they are in a place of leadership.”
I have walked alongside youth leaders who struggled with sin, depression, anxiety, marriages in turmoil, etc. A great majority of them confessed that they could never seek the leadership of their pastor. They feared job loss, ministry failure, or deep tongue lashing. What they were desperately in need of was the same pastor that wrapped his/her arms around the congregation members who experienced the same struggles. Your youth pastor needs a shepherd who will love, guide, and walk with them in their struggle; not judge and threaten their position.
- They want to see your face with the teens too. YES! Randomly show up for a youth night, ice cream party, water wars, something! Don’t show up in your fancy suit and tie either. SHOW UP! Have some fun! Scream loudly and jump around. The teens need to see a man/woman of God who is real, fun, and loving outside of the pulpit. Don’t be stuffy. Let loose.
- Do life with them. This goes back to #2, but have some coffee, play basketball, bowl, watch a movie, invite them over for dinner and DON’T TALK ABOUT WORK LIFE. Enjoy each other. Enjoy your differences. Enjoy your similarities. Laugh. Cry. Be present in their life. Here’s permission to even do that during “work hours”. The pay off is ginormous. It develops a deeper relationship among church leadership and it ultimately trickles down to the congregation. People want family; even your leaders.
Do you desire to grow in any or all of these areas? In the beginning things may seem odd, but the more you practice them, the more organic they become. Desire to create a space of mentorship and discipleship with your church staff. Doing so reflects ministry as Christ demonstrated for us.