This is for all those that are starting out in youth ministry in September or perhaps it’s for those who have been in ministry but have become stale. Regardless of your stage in ministry, this principle is true: as a youth worker you need to keep proving that you are worth the paycheck.
It’s a harsh statement and one that I believe is changing as Youth Workers become more established and recognized within the CRC. As you will notice in the blog post entitled "Synods Discussion on Adolescents" the CRC is making great strides forward in being intentional about ministry to youth and Young Adults. Take a look at what’s happening at Synod! Historical!
But these steps forward, albeit significant, are on a national scale and may or may not directly effect what you are doing in your local church. So here are a few ideas that might help you in showing the people you serve from week to week that you are worth every penny they pay you.
Do something big: It’s important that in the first few months of starting your ministry that you do something that is significant in your church that people can notice. One of the things I had to do in my first 4 months of starting out was getting rid of the local boys program. It was a ministry that caused much concern for many, the kids were not enjoying the ministry and community kids were going home shocked as to what happens at a church group. There were a number of red flags indicating that things needed to be changed. So being new I thought this was a good issue to tackle. Yikes. Through much prayer and the full support of the council the boys club was dropped and we adopted Cadets. This was a huge shift, many of the people that led the boys club left our church and went to another but the ministry grew and is thriving today thanks to a very capable Head Counselor. This change was something that needed to be done. It was a visible change that the church family noticed. It was something big. Perhaps your ‘big thing’ does not have to be to this extreme but think of something that is visible to the congregation.
Send out a monthly Newsletter: It is important that you are an open book to the congregation. Keep nothing a secret. Always keep them informed of the work that you are doing and a great way to do that is through monthly a newsletter, blog or video post on your church website. Don’t hold anything back! (Except visits of course – those are confidential.) Share events, upcoming changes in ministry, highlight volunteers and youth. Be creative but keep your ministry an open book to the congregation. While I was a youth pastor I designed a 6-8 page monthly newsletter that went to everyone in the congregation. It featured movie or book reviews, testimonies, youth ministry reports etc. If I skipped a month, people came and asked what happened. This newsletter became part of the life of the church. It’s well worth the time it took me to design each month. Perhaps for you, monthly is too often but even a quarterly newsletter or video post would be a huge step forward in open communication.
Get them up front: Everybody loves to see the youth/children involved in the church. Start talking to the youth and begin preparing them to public speak, sing in a praise band, read the Bible, pray and do the Welcome and God’s Call to Worship. When looking at the church liturgy, always keep in mind where you can place a youth. When we returned from a ministry trip to Tijuana, Mexico the youth did the entire service except preach the sermon. It was a powerful service – the silos of ministry were broken down and it truly was a ‘family’ worship service.
Testimonials: Every youth has a story! It’s true. If you have the budget to take youth out for dinner or a coffee you will come to realize that they have a story – be it good or bad. A story is what people can be drawn too, a story captures the heart! Find youth who are willing to tell their story in either written form, via a video, a song, through art or verbally. When it came time for Profession of Faith we started to make it mandatory that the youth doing Profession of Faith had to express their faith in some way – it did not have to be spoken. This was huge for the non-public speaking type.
Well, these are just a few of many ideas and I am sure if you are reading this you have other ideas that have worked for you that showed that you are worth your weight in gold. It would be great to hear from you and for you to add your experiences to the list. (post a comment below)
Together, as youth workers across North America, we can help and encourage each other through the Network so please don’t be shy, add what has worked for you thus INSPIRING others who are new in ministry or have become stale to take the next step.