A cohort for youth workers in their first two years:

YoungerBroPosse1876 The greatest job ever!

In my opinion, youth ministry is the most amazing job on the planet! We are actually paid to spend time with students, loving them and helping them love Jesus. At its, core, that is really all student ministry is. That is it!

And it is because of this simple passion that many of us sent our resumes and pursued churches in the hopes of actually having this blessed task as an actual profession. We remember the exact place we were when we received the call from a search committee informing us that we are their candidate and this dream, is not becoming a reality.

But for some reason, this idealism, passion, and excitement for Christ, for ministry, for students doesn’t seem to be enough. The actual profession of student ministry turns out to not be so simple. Loving students into the kingdom is actually this tiny sliver of what we do and what we are graded on. There is this hidden road that no body helps us navigate that is wrought with land mines, and many times littered with the poor youth workers who have gone before.

This hidden road in the awful and steep learning curve of student ministry in a church context. The bad news is that if navigated poorly will destroy the traveler, harden their heart for ministry, and for the church, and might even devastate their faith.

The good news is that this learning curve, while steep, is incredibly short. In a matter of two short years, you can have a firm grasp on all the nuts and bolts that are needed to run a successful and thriving ministry. And once these skills are mastered, then you are set free to do the thing that your heart longs to do, to love students and help them love Jesus.

You don’t have to do this alone!

Instead of blindly navigating this alone at extreme peril; instead of learning through trial and error and error and error; and instead of learning through books written by people who haven’t been an actual youth worker in over a decade and can not even remember what it was like to deal with the challenges of an aging pastor, What if it didn’t have to be this way?

What if you had a partner who would help you navigate this road, a coach to help you push through this short, but incredibly steep learning curve, and would help you develop the skills and rhythms for long-term, healthy ministry?

What if you also were surrounded by a group of colleagues who were in a similar spot in whom you could share life with, share ideas with, commiserate with, and encourage each other as you work hard through this difficult season?

A cohort for youth workers in their first two years of ministry

There is actually a group that is gathering with this purpose: To give youth workers in their first two years of paid ministry the tools, encouragement, accountability, and habits that will help them not only survive in ministry, but put the patterns in place to allow them to thrive.

Over the course of a year, this cohort would focus on 5 distinct areas:

1) Develop healthy rhythms;

Spiritually, professionally, and personally

2) Provide practical resourcing

Calendaring

Curriculum and talk development

Budget

Program structure and support

Pastoral relations

Adolescent development

Student discipleship

Hot Topics

3) Encourage connection

Among their colleagues in the cohort

Among their colleagues in our denominational family

4) Safe accountability

In their walk with Jesus and pursuit of holiness

In their relationship with their supervisor

In their implementation of their ministry plan.

5) Having Fun!

Laughter is the best medicine, we will try to do a lot of it.

A cohort made up of 8-10 youth workers, would meet together in the fall at a retreat center, and then two more times in that school year. There would be a monthly conference call with the cohort, monthly call from the cohort leader, and a monthly check in with a local coach. With all this connection, training, and fun, you will be through the steepest part of the learning curve and ready to settle into the ministry that God has actually called you to do, to love students and help them love Jesus!!

If you are in your first two years of vocational ministry, would you consider an opportunity like this? Sign ups are happening this summer. There will be more details to come.

For those of you veterans, what are some topics that I am missing? What is some of the best helps and advice or wisdom through hard knocks would you include?

Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry: Book Review

186961-2A few months ago I wrote a post where I wrestled if it was time to leave my context or if I simply needed to take a nap.  In that post I concluded that I was called to stay, and instead of starting over, I am going to attempt to do the things that I would do in a brand new context, but do them with the 7  years of street cred I have earned here. Part of my plan was to watch and learn from our new staff hire to see how passion, hard work, and idealism are important ingredients in a thriving youth ministry.  Now that we have hired a new Jr High Director who has these ingredients in spades, I am ready for the clinic.

So far, I could not be more pleased with the gifted and godly man that God has brought to our church.  While he is hardly a youth ministry rookie, this gets to be his first position with some real authority, and a real opportunity for success.  As he has hit the ground running, I am mimicking his every move, every meeting, every plan, every interaction with students, and even attempting to mimic his hours.

Besides studying our new director, I have decided to add to my education a refresher on one of the Youth Ministry classics, Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry by Doug Fields.

No matter if you are just starting out, or have been doing youth ministry back when DC Talk was a useful ministry tool, this book is a worthy read!  For a book that has been around for over 10 years, I was really impressed with how relevant this book still is.  Besides a couple of references to answering machines, this book is a great road map for those who are new to this gig.  For me, I found this book a helpful course correction as I lean into this next season of ministry.

Here are some of the highlights:

Right out of the gate, Fields lays out his top 10 essentials.  His second word of his entire book is the year he started doing youth ministry.  1979!!! Yikes.  Once you get past his introduction, which is a good taste of the good 'ol days of Youth Ministry, he does jump right into the meat of his essentials.

These are Doug Field's top ten youth ministry commitments:

  1. I will move slowly.
  2. I will regularly check my motives and evaluate my heart.
  3. I will steer clear of the numbers game.
  4. I will not criticize the past.
  5. I will avoid the comparison trap.
  6. I will focus on priorities.
  7. I will pace myself.
  8. I will serve.
  9. I will be a learner.
  10. I will pursue contentment.

These commitments are worth buying the book.  Everyone of these, if implemented will make for sustained and healthy ministry.  As the book goes on, I found a number of gems that were good reminders, and some ideas I have never even considered.

Throughout the rest of the book Fields addresses matters of the heart, discouragement, and keeping the faith.  He walks through the dangerous mine field of dealing with pastors and parents.  And he gives practical helps to evaluate your programs and the development of your student leaders.

The truth is that we have the best job!

Keeping youth ministry fresh is a challenging task. And if we are not careful cynicism will take over.  If you want to do youth ministry for the long haul, then I recommend treating your job like it is always your first two years.  We need more passion, hard work and idealism, not bitter know it alls :)

May God continue to restore your vision and passion for ministry, and may we never get complacent or think we are above getting back to ministry basics.

Blessings!