When I first started as a full time youth pastor I had some youth ministry experience under my belt but was never actually the guy in charge, and honestly I was scared. There were so many things that I didn’t know and I found myself having to fake it and learn as I went. And that is fine, that is how it goes when you are starting out, honestly that’s how it still is for me, I learn as I go. But starting out can be hard, you want everyone to think you have it all together, especially your senior pastor. You want to come off as if you have all the right answers, you know what you are doing, and everything is perfect because you are awesome! But a lot of times that is not how we actually feel at all, so here are 5 tips for anyone starting out in youth ministry as a new youth pastor/director.
1.Have a mission, vision, and plan of attack
Too many youth ministries find themselves in a place where no growth is taking place and they are just stale. They try to make stuff happen but have no direction, and that is most likely because the youth pastor/director probably never put into place a mission, vision, or a plan of attack on how to get there. One of the first things you should do is clearly define what it is you are trying to accomplish, and what your ministry needs to look like if you are going to fulfill that mission.
2. Build Relationships
As a new youth pastor or director it is so easy to get wrapped up in the details of programing and making sure everything runs smoothly that often times relationship building gets pushed to the back burner. Some of the best youth ministry advice I received was not some that was spoken but rather shown me when I was in jr. high and high school. I don’t remember many if any of the actual Bible lessons or great worship sets, but I do remember the relationships I had with my youth pastor (who is still a great friend of mine) and other youth volunteers. Get in and build relationships with your students!
3. Learn from other youth workers
You do not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to youth ministry. Learn from other youth workers. Honestly, most of what I do has not been pioneered by me it is stuff that I have learned over the years from other youth workers. Get a mentor, someone that you can talk to and ask advice of, ask questions and try to learn from people who have more experience. Join a youth ministry network where you can learn from other youth workers and bounce ideas and problems off other people. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, get advice, get coaching, and learn from other youth workers.
4. Don’t be afraid to try something new
Yes, learn from and pirate as much as you can from other youth workers, but don’t be afraid to do your own thing and try new things. As a brand new youth pastor or director you don’t want to have anything flop and it can be easy to just play it safe. But that is how you learn, and chances are when you do take that risk your ideas will be awesome!
5. Make it about Jesus
If you only remember one thing it should be this, make it all about Jesus. Whether you are planning, interacting, training, teaching, or whatever you are doing do it all for the purpose of pointing to Jesus. He should be the reason you are in youth ministry, and He should be the focus of your ministry. Make Him famous and point student to Him in all that you do.
Being a youth pastor or youth director is hands down the best job on the planet but it can also be one of the most difficult. As you began your youth ministry journey it is my prayer that you will be able to reach as many students as possible and guide them into a real relationship with Jesus. I hope you remember these 5 things as you start out in your ministry journey! Thank you for being a youth worker!