16 Ways to Build a Youth Ministry That Will Last
- Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Search with the right goal in mind. When searching for the next youth pastor, focus on finding someone who can steward a vision much larger than himself or herself while serving at your church. Put the right system in place before looking for the right person to hire. Remember that the youth pastor and all other staff and volunteers are really just interim workers. What’s most important is the ministry’s impact on students’ lives, which will continue into the future whether or not the people who are currently working in your ministry are still there.
Hire wisely. Hire a youth pastor who naturally likes to do the tasks the job requires. Clearly communicate the direction in which the ministry is heading so your next youth pastor will help take it there instead of in another direction. Emphasize two basic goals: growing the youth group to reach more students, and creating a ministry that the students will enjoy. Pay your new youth pastor as well as you can, because he or she is most likely to stay if fairly compensated. Define what “success” will look like the youth pastor can understand your expectations well.
Encourage emotional health. Work to stay emotionally healthy yourself and help others who work with you in the youth ministry to do the same. Don’t make your decisions on the basis of your feelings, which depend on changing circumstances and are unreliable. Base your decisions on biblical principles that remain the same no matter what your current circumstances. Instead of running from pain, find God at work in the middle of the pain and see what you can learn from it. Take responsibility for your own problems rather than blaming other people. Ask yourself these key questions: “Do I have a life outside ministry?”, “Do I have an emotionally healthy schedule?”, “How much do I know about what I don’t know?”, “Do I rule my tongue, or does it rule me?”, “Whom do I take more seriously – God or myself”, “What am I fighting about?”, “What do I do after I fail?”, “Can I say ‘no’ to people?”, and “Am I burning out?”
Manage your time well. Every day, decide what your most important priorities will be, and focus on them. Keep in mind that the best results will likely come from activities like spending time with students, developing a volunteer team, and doing strategic planning. Be sure to build in enough time to reflect on what you’re doing regularly and keep thinking and praying about how to best meet your goals. Give yourself enough time to rest, as well. When people approach you with a task that you’d like you to take on or a problem they’d like you to solve, write it down so you can remember it and figure out how best to manage it. Hold three different kinds of ministry meetings: daily meetings of just a few minutes at the beginning of each day to clarify priorities, weekly tactical meetings, and strategic meetings either every month or every quarter.
Build a constellation of people. Instead of relying on just one star (your youth pastor) to shine Christ’s light into the lives of your students, develop a constellation of many stars (staff members and volunteers) willing to invest their time and energy into students’ lives. Make sure that the adults are connected to each other as well as to the students, with everyone working together to shine as brightly as possible. Start recruiting adults at least six months before a new year of youth group ministry. Write down the ministry’s needs to help you figure out how many volunteers you’ll need for the coming year. Develop a pool of potential recruits – including a name of a potential volunteer beside each open position – and diligently make phone calls until you find the people you need. Once you have the volunteers, regularly communicate with them. Give them job descriptions, behavioral covenants, and an accountability structure. Affirm and encourage them regularly by showing your appreciation in creative ways (giving them gift cards, inviting them to the pastor’s home for dinner, etc.). Help volunteers build friendships with each other, and encourage them to remain committed to volunteering with the youth ministry for at least several years so they can see growth occur in students’ lives. Delegate responsibility to key volunteers by building a culture of apprenticeship. Give new volunteers a thorough orientation, regularly check in with all your volunteers, and celebrate the good work that your volunteers are doing.
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