How should a brand new youth pastor begin his or her job in ministry? That’s the subject we’ve been talking about in my last few blog posts, starting with your advice to “Neal Newbie.” Then I suggested there were 5 principles for “Neal Newbie” to consider. I shared the first principle here, and then two more.
4. Demo Some Ministry Models
I recently bought a kayak from a small canoe and kayak shop near my church. When I asked them which kayak was for me, they basically answered, “I don’t know, why don’t you demo a bunch and tell us what works for you?” This little shop has a ‘demo’ program where you put a down payment down, then you get to try out any kayak you like and see what works for you. The reasoning behind this is because each person is so different it would be hard for a kayak salesperson to sell the same kayak to every person, male, female, tall, short, muscular… and not! There is no ‘one kayak’ that works for everyone.
If only people realized that in youth ministry. Just because a basketball program worked at your last church doesn’t mean the same program will work with these kids in this neighborhood, in this building, with these volunteers.
After a youth pastor asks questions of the pastor, the leaders, and the kids (Principle #1 and #2), he or she should use that information of what has and hasn’t worked to attempt a ministry model that might best achieve the set vision (Principle #3).
My friend Rob just experienced this with a ministry opportunity at a local middle school. Rob has been serving local campuses for years, even writing articles for us about how to get on campus. Last spring one of those campuses called him up and asked him for some help:
“We have a building on campus that you can use after school any day you want. We’d just love you to provide something positive for kids. You can do whatever you want.”
How would you like that hand extended to you?
Rob called me up and asked me to come look at the building with him. It was right on the edge of this middle school campus and it had a snack bar, pool tables, ping pong… name it. Rob was overwhelmed. “What should I do?”
Think about this. What would you do? Run a program? Just provide a place to hang out? Offer tutoring? How would you use this facility to connect adults with kids? How would this facility introduce people to a relationship with Jesus? Would it be a tool to help kids grow?
And that’s where it began. He began “experimenting” for a lack of a better term. He tried different formats both ‘programmed’ and ‘unprogrammed.’
I had a similar experience years ago and it was a weekly learning experience. “Whoops. That didn’t work. Let’s try something else next week.” It takes patience, perseverance, and constant tweaking.
Here’s where that “advice from youth ministry veterans”(Principle #1) can be a big help. Read books and blogs from people you trust in the youth ministry world, discovering what models and methods worked for them. Visit websites that provide current training and ideas (outreach ideas, discipleship help, discipleship agendas, discussion starters, etc.). They might work for you as well. But you’ll never know until you try.
And when you try, don’t forget to…
5. Give it time!
Ministry takes time. Don’t be discouraged when you go on campus for the first time and the kids are rude to you. Don’t give up when you try to start a Bible study with a few of the church kids and no one shows up. Don’t quit your job when the elders meet with you to confront you about the mess that the junior highers made in the church lobby last Sunday (you’re the new babysitter, dontcha know)!
You might try three or four ministry models (Principle #4) before you find the right one that helps you reach kids for Christ or help believers grow spiritually. It takes momentum for most ministry models to begin growing in impact.
Watch out for discouragement. Paul encourages us in one of his letters to the church in Corinth:
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58, NIV)
When you use the wisdom and experience you’re gathering to “give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord” … He’s going to bless those efforts in ways you don’t even see.
“Neal Newbie” and I connected for lunch when he told me about his new job as a youth pastor. I gave him a copy of my book Connect and began trying to answer his countless questions. The overwhelming question was, “What do I do first?”
As I organized my thoughts, these are the five principles I shared with “Neal Newbie.” I began with Principle #1…and he’s already beginning to use the first few principles as we speak.
Funny… many (if not most) new youth workers don’t even do the first three principles. They start right with #4, blindly using some model that they’ve seen used successfully before. Sadly, there is no one “cookie cutter” model that works everywhere.
So where are you going to start?
What about you?
Are you using a ministry model that was handed to you?
Are young people meeting Jesus?
Are young people growing in their faith?
Which one of these principles might help you the most?
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