Youth ministry can be a lonely place. It is all too easy to load ourselves up with unreal expectations. We love what we are involved in but it can sometimes feel like we are the only one who is interested in youth work. This is unlikely to be true but is more likely to be an indicator that we are doing too much leading on our own. I want to suggest 5 key ways to gather the support you need around you.
I have been fortunate to have had good people around me most of my ministry life. I benefitted from excellent training from Oasis Trust, where they emphasised good support. This is essential for employed youth ministers, but equally important for those in voluntary roles. What I have discovered is that this support does not appear automatically, but we need to find it for ourselves.
If you are in a church leadership position, take the time to work with your youth leader to ensure they have these 5 areas of vital support.
Anglican churches have a couple of church wardens, who get alongside the church leader and share the church leadership. Youth leaders need ‘youth wardens’ or champions. People who will share the vision for the youth ministry and be able to help you develop and build the vision. I am always challenged by the story in Exodus 17 of the Israelites fighting the Amalekites. When Moses held his hands up, they advanced, when he put them down the Amalekites won. Aaron and Hur came either side of Moses to hold his arms up when he grew tired, thus leading to victory. Who are your Aaron and Hur?
If you are in a church leadership position, take the time to work with your youth leader to ensure they have these 5 areas of vital support
2. Line manager
This is usually the only role in place, and often not functioning with volunteers. It is essential if the youth work is to be part of the wider church mission and ministry. I have written before on how to get the support you need from your church leader.
A mentor is crucial if you want to keep growing in your leadership. Many leaders are insecure and don’t want to reveal their weaknesses, but it is vital if we are to grow into the leaders God wants us to become. Having a mentor, usually outside the church, is important for us to be accountable for our own growth. Thrive offers specific help in this area of mentoring.
4. Prayer support
The temptation is to only find prayer support for the ministry, missing out on support for you as the leader. Being a godly leader is reliant on prayer so finding a few people, maybe just 3 or 4, who will commit to pray regularly for you and what you are doing, is essential. Keep this group purposefully small so you can be honest and build a trust in their confidentiality. Praying for you is just as important as praying for what you do.
5. Pastoral care
This is especially important if you have moved to work at a church which is not your ‘home church’. Having a couple of people who will support you, look out for you, love you for being you and not the youth minister. This will make the world of difference to how you find your place in the church.These people can help you get to know the church and to feel that you belong in the church and are not the ‘hired help’.
Some of these roles may be carried out by the same people. That’s ok. What’s important is that you have all 5 bases covered. Too often leaders don’t and that’s often why they fall into trouble, whether that’s emotionally, physically or spiritually. If you want to keep leading in youth ministry for a long time ahead, put these 5 support structures in place today.
Can you list people in each of the 5 support roles? If you can, make sure you thank them! If you can’t, spend a few moments thinking about who you might ask to take on a role.