10 Things I Wish I Knew My First Year In Ministry.
1. Don’t Take Things Too Seriously
When I first was hired I was 22 and so was the Youth Pastor. We were young and always felt we had to prove to everyone we were mature enough and capable of leading their students. Showing you’re a responsible adult in youth ministry was hard as parents would comment on our age and experience. But with most things we just needed time and to be transparent with the parents and the students, and after our first year we had shown people we were a good fit and realized a lot of our stress was self-inflicted.
2. Consistency is GOLD
The High School Pastor that mentored me would mention this, but I didn’t understand the value of this until late into my first year/early into my second year. The kids and parents respond well when things have a pattern, whether its the flow of service to how you coordinate events, or even leaders joining and stepping down. Make sure that you finding what works for you and your ministry and then sticking to that will help keep you and everyone else organized. Feel free to break free from your regular schedule as spontaneity can open doors for bonding and can make things seem extra special.
3. The More Prayer the Better.
I feel like this one is obvious but thought I should mention it. I know and feel such a difference in events, services, and camps where we were prayed up and had handed it all over the Lord and when we had prayed but didn’t sincerely “pray up” as we say, by giving it all to God, and it was something we regretted. We like to pray at the end of services with our leaders for what our students learned and took away. We also pray as we plan camps and try to take time to get alone with Lord and pray about what the theme will be or how chapels will run, overall the students and leaders that will join us. No two events are the same and being “prayed up” helps us immensely.
4. Living Life with Your Leaders is Important.
I went to a conference in San Diego, and we heard this woman talk about living life with you leaders especially your single leaders that are a bit older and how we are part of their family. I couldn’t agree more with this woman, and we make it a point to get together with our leaders as a whole at least once a month to meet and fellowship. We meet twice a year with our leaders individually to connect with them ask them if they see anything we should improve on how their personal life is going and pray over each other. After Wednesday night service we like to grab dinner with any/all of the leaders that want to come even though this is a lot less formal it has created a community and family amongst our leaders and us and I treasure this time with them.
5. Never Talk When Angry.
This one also could be a no-brainer but felt I needed to mention it as I have seen myself mess up and seen some of our leaders struggle with this as well. My first year in ministry there was a student who just knew what buttons to push and how to test the water, and I entirely acted out in the flesh one night and had to go and apologize after I had gathered some perspective. I regretted it and saw how It hurt our friendship. I know for some leaders we have served with can get pretty passionate about a situation and lose the ability of growth and change in how they handle cases by being over aggressive or intense. Its such a learning experience and can change the way students respond to us.
6. Let the Kids Pick.
We have enjoyed getting the kids involved in different decisions we make for our youth group. If we are watching a movie for a movie night or adding a fun event to our summer schedule letting students be a part of the process gives them a little bit of ownership and can make them excited to share with others to be apart of what we are doing. We love letting them take part in as many things as possible.
7. Criticism Hurts but Can Help.
I can remember my first few weeks I had so many people give me “advice” and I was so shocked by how much of it was negative or a warning. In retrospect, I now see the heart of a lot of it and have learned that any advice someone gives can teach me something about how I think or do things. My ways are not always the best way and asking for help or help make for a better event for everyone.
8. Protecting You and Your Time.
Make sure you are protecting your time and are growing spiritually. I know how common it is for us in Youth Ministry to wear multiple hats and sacrifice personal time to make everything we do possible, but it’s so important you are taking care of your walk with the Lord and have people pouring into your life. Youth ministry is such a blessing but can also be draining at times. It is so easy to fill all of our time with different things trying to make our jobs and ministries the best possible, but eventually, we all can lose ourselves in our position and make it all about the tasks. I know for me I have to take time every now and then where I get away from all things youth ministry, and it always gives me fresh vision and clarity not just for work but personally as well. –
CPS-Child Protective Services is such a huge aspect of being in youth ministry that discussed often. I remember the first camp I had a student who had been crying with a friend and just started sharing about how she had been a victim of abuse. She had never told anyone, and it just all started pouring out. I was overwhelmed by the pain she was feeling, and I had previously worked at a school and knew that I was a mandated reported so I called CPS and a social worker was assigned to her and her family and helped this student find healing and a safe environment. We have had a CPS worker come in and discuss what a reportable incident is and what is not. It was incredibly helpful, and she explained to us that it is always better to call and try to report than not report and be held liable. I would HIGHLY suggest calling your local Child Protective Service and having someone come out to educate yourself and your leaders.
10. Love Can Change Anyone.
Love can change anyone, has been my favorite, and I would even say the hardest thing I have learned within my past couple years in youth ministry. The love of Christ and the power of the gospel can transform and change anyone. It can be such a powerful thing to witness, and I remind myself always that my sole purpose in Jr. High Ministry is to lovingly point the students to Christ. Everything we do should have the goal of building relationships, loving the students, creating a safe community and culture where they can experience the love of the Gospel.