In a couple weeks I’m speaking at a retreat for sr. pastors who serve here in the northwest. For the first session they asked me to teach sr. pastors how they can support their paid and volunteer youth workers. However, the second session is wide open to whatever I think sr. pastors need to hear from youth workers. Interesting, huh? That’s a lot of free reign to say all the things we all want to say that could possibly get us fired.
Here’s what I’ve brainstormed for the first session on how sr. pastors can support their youth workers. What else should I add?
How sr. pastors can support their youth workers
Always publicly support your youth workers. Always. Even if it makes you look bad. Later, take the youth worker privately in your office and give them the, “What were you thinking?!” talk. There’s nothing that will erode your youth ministry team faster than feeling unsupported by their pastor. And nothing will deter others from serving in the youth ministry more than when they see that taking place.
Make yourself available to the teens. Don’t push youth work off onto a couple volunteers and expect that you’ll understand what they’re dealing with with issues arise. Visit the youth meetings on a regular basis, talk with the kids, show them that you’re real and approachable and that you care about them.
Change your mind about only using “young married couples” as youth workers. Consider the retired generation: they have time, life experience, spiritual maturity, and love for youth like no one else! Kids don’t care about how “hip” their leaders are or if they’re familiar with all the latest bands and movies — they just want to know that someone cares about them unconditionally.
Give your youth workers direction and guidance, but other than that, be hands-off. Let them experiment, explore and try new things. Let them pursue their God-given vision for the ministry (as long as it’s within the vision of the church, of course). Give them the freedom to fail and learn. And when they do fail, support them and encourage them through it. Understand that most sr. pastors are the engineering-type: they pay attention to detail, are very bullet-point linear people, and like to manage things. But youth workers usually the opposite: they are big-picture people, not always linear, and feel comfortable with a bit of controlled chaos. Enable them to serve how God’s created them, not however makes you feel most comfortable.
When recruiting youth workers, listen to their heart, their dreams, passion and giftedness for ministry and plug them in a place where that can vibe. Don’t just use people to fill the ministry’s holes and empty classrooms. Create places where their passion can shine and become contagious to those around them. And if your ministry holes aren’t filled, that’s okay — trust that the Lord wants to go a different direction.
Challenge your youth workers to think about youth ministry as something more than just a social time for kids with a Bible study thrown in. Teens want depth more than fun and games. And they don’t want to be “preached at” as much as they like to discuss and engage the material themselves.
Why teenagers are leaving the church
I thought I could do the second “free reign” session to talk about the teen drop-out from church after high school. What do you think? Is there something else that’s more pressing that sr. pastors need to hear?
Here are some of the talking points I’ve brainstormed so far:
Be intentional about getting teenagers integrated into the church. Avoid “minichurch” approach to youth ministry: youth pastor, youth service, youth band, youth building, youth church. They are part of THE church. Have them give input into church decisions, involved in leading worship, greeters, offering, sharing testimonies, teach a class to adults on how to use the Internet to communicate, offer ideas for how to improve services, etc. Make the teenagers a vital part of the church body.
Many parents are not modeling the daily interaction between faith and real life for their kids at home. Kids don’t see a faith in their parents that intersects and determines every area of life. Their parents attend church, but the home life is void of any spiritual influence. Teens see that disconnect and see no reason to be a part of it when they’re finally on their own.
The best thing you can do for the teenagers in your church and your community is NOT to start a youth program at your church — it’s to ensure that the parents are growing spiritually and actually living out their faith every day in front of their kids. Pastors need to challenge the adults to actually grow, not just be faithful attenders.
With each sermon, include a couple discussion questions that parents can use to further the discussion about the Sunday message at home or in the car. Follow-up and during the week ask people to share in front of church how the conversation went in order to offer accountability so parents and teens alike grow to expect it.
I’d love to hear your feedback. What else do sr. pastors need to hear from youth workers? What do I need to add to these notes? Is there a different route I should go with the second session?
Join our LIVE Youth Ministry Conversation this Friday at 2:00 PM EST! The topic is, “Evaluating the spiritual depth of our youth ministries.” Of course, we also want to discuss your questions and any advice or ideas you need from other youth workers. Join us using either your telephone or your computer microphone.
Posted on September 4, 2008