From Friend to Father: The seasons of youth ministry

Youth Specialties
July 18th, 2016

Dan’s post below is a great reminder of all we can learn from each other when we gather together. Join us at the National Youth Workers Convention this fall in Cincinnati, OH to connect with and learn from the full family of youth workers.

I didn’t think it would ever happen, but it has! I am now a youth pastor and a father of a student. This new season of my life and ministry career has got me thinking also about the seasons of youth ministry that have moved me from friend to father.

Good Friend

Early in youth ministry, only a few years older than my students, my role resembles that of a good friend.  I was seen less as an adult authority, and more as an older positive peer relationship.

This season came with its pros and cons.  Student may have been more willing to talk about certain things, but often were less willing to show appropriate respect. The line between friendly and friendship was easily blurred.

If this is your season of life, cautiously cherish the relationships you build with your students.  Enjoy the time and the level of connection while also being intentional about establishing yourself as an adult.

Big Brother

As the gap of age grew between my students and myself, I found myself moving from being seen as a peer to the role of slightly older protector, like a big brother.

Both my guys and girls during these years saw me through the lens of relationship as older and wiser.  This season brought less challenge to my authority and a new level of respect.

If this is your season of youth ministry, use it to stand up for your students both in the world and in the church. Defend and protect them as younger brothers and sisters in the family of God. 

Cool Uncle

Seen as an adult and as an older authority figure, I took on the role of relevant philosopher, dispensing adult wisdom and insights still maintaining a level of relational connection.

My role as an adult and respected authority was established. It was a season with ministry comprehension that allowed me to lead well as a bridge between students and parents. I was seen as someone to listen to and approach for advice by both students and adults alike.

If this is your season, become the guide on the side of both students and parents.  Use the opportunity of being seen as a relevant and knowing adult to lead the whole family, not just students.

Caring Father

The season of mature ministry longevity, I find myself in now is loving parent, not just to your own child but also to all my students. I am no longer just a peer, older protector or guiding philosopher. I now can take on the Godly reflection of The Father. This is the season that marks a coming of age in youth ministry longevity, as a spiritual parent.

If this is your season or will be soon, make it a partnership with parents.  Seek to become a partner of discipleship in the lives of their children, as you would want someone to do the same for you as a parent.

Whatever your age or season, recognize the blessing of the moment.  Allow God to use the present as the gift it is in your calling.  Live in and through the moment so He can continue the path to ministry longevity.

dan.DAN ISTVANIK is the 5th to 8th grade pastor at Victory Church in Lancaster, PA. He has been working in youth ministry for over 20 years serving churches in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia. Besides serving in the local church setting he is also the youth ministry content writer for Parent Ministry.Net, along with being a contributor to a variety of other great youth ministry resources like Youthworker Journal, Group Magazine, Download Youth Ministry, and more. Additional he shares daily Jr. high/middle school ministry specific resources, and hints  on his own blog “The JH Uth Guy” at: jrhighuthguy.blogspot.com

Youth Specialties

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