Youth pastors and church youth group leaders have a tough job. They have to deal with so much—from drama between adolescents with raging hormones to complaining parents with unreasonably high expectations. Truly, youth pastors and leaders don’t get paid enough for their job (if they get paid anything!).
Here are some tips that may help you survive the jungle that is youth ministry:
Don’t underestimate the youth.
Young people are smarter than we give them credit for. Sure, they are often obnoxious and silly and don’t take life seriously enough, but in reality they understand more than we think they do. They contemplate life. They can understand difficult truths. They are becoming more of their own person away from their parents and are figuring out what beliefs they want to take hold of. For youth leaders this can be a good thing and a bad thing: it means that the truths you are trying to drive home to them may actually penetrate into their lives, but it also means that they have the capacity to indulge in very bad behavior sometimes!
Make it fun, but keep it Christ-centered.
Young people do appreciate and enjoy the “fun” aspect of youth group. They like the silly games and bowling and skiing and going to the movies. But there runs the risk that these fun activities can become the focal point. For a church youth group, this should not be the case. Youth leaders need to be careful to always direct the focus where it should be: Christ. Not that every little activity needs to have some sort of contrived spiritual significance, but the group should be about Christ rather than just about “fun.”
Be approachable yet firm.
Young people need someone they can talk to, someone who will listen without judgment and offer encouragement and advice. They need someone who will be a friend that they can look up to and enjoy spending time with. At the same time, young people need someone who is not a pushover. A youth leader sometimes must lay down the law and tell it like it is, even if the truth may be harsh. Finding the right balance between being the approachable friend and the firm authority figure is vital to survival as an effective youth pastor or leader.
Without organization, your life as a ministry leader will rapidly descend into chaos. Write things down. Make notes to yourself and color-code things if you have to! Utilize social media to get information out. Another way to get organized is to communicate things via text message (such as through Mobile Text Alerts!). Sending mass text messages to your youth group members and fellow leaders is a great way to let them know about last-minute events, remind them about scheduled activities, or encourage them with Bible verses and inspirational messages.
Above all, never forget what it’s all about—serving God by serving the youth. If you always keep that as your goal and motivation, you really can’t go wrong.