When my position at my church changed about eighteen months ago, I wasn’t prepared for the wave of newness I would experience. Up to the moment when our church bookkeeper retired, I’d been “just the youth guy,” responsible for handling the details, spiritual formation, and event planning for our small but growing youth ministry. Then, at her retirement, I assumed the role of bookkeeper, parish administrator and the person responsible for payroll, paying the bills and other administrative tasks.
Talk about a total mind blowing experience. In the constant flip-flopping between finance and youth ministry, I’ve learned a lot about how administrative types see those who work in youth ministry. And, because I now spend a lot more of my time administrating than I do planning our youth ministry, I’m learning more about youth ministry than I have in my years of actually doing it.
I’m learning why administrative types, those responsible for the organization of the church, often don’t like youth workers. And, to be honest, I completely get it. Here are some tips to strengthen this relationship.
1. Honor the Calendar
I’ve learned that the calendar is the important gatekeeper for all of the happenings in a church. In youth ministry, the calendar is the thing we put together so students can join together for community and Bible study. For administrators, the calendar is often the guts of the business of the church. Every event, no matter the age group or purpose, goes on the calendar. And then, the calendar runs the office. An administrator pays close attention to the calendar. When I, the youth guy, ignored the larger church calendar and planned something that interfered with another program, I messed with the very core of the structure of the church.
2. Respect Others’ To-Do Lists
In youth ministry, to-do lists are created sometimes for events, but more often, they’re a thing that contains our dreams. Our to-do lists are “I wish” lists, and we make them to keep track of our random thoughts, and the things we’ll do when our schedule opens up. For church administrators, to-do lists are created for the purpose of accomplishing a larger picture, one that encompasses a variety of ministries within the church. A to-do list is not a list of dreams, it’s a list that, if does not get accomplished, the church structure could very well fall apart. When I, at the last minute, added a new program or new and unexpected idea into the organization of the church, and one that involved adding things to the to-do lists of others, I was messing with the churches ability to flow forward into the mission of God.
3. Get Better at Finances
My youth ministry brain has always regarded finances as a thing that is completely flexible. If I needed more money for a mission trip, to rent a van, or to order more hamburgers for an event but didn’t have the budget for any of those things, my mindset was, order first, ask permission later. But my administrative role has taught me that there is a limit to how much money a church has, and often that amount is fairly low. There’s always a tension in church finances. Everyone wants the money, few want to give in and not spend money on their pet projects. But when I did practice my “buy now, ask permission later” philosophy, I actually hindered another ministry area from accomplishing their passion to reach the people they’re called to reach.
When we overspend, when we show up late, when we consistently take long lunch breaks, when we show up every day in shorts, when we post on Facebook all day long, when we don’t act like adults…it’s easy to see why many of us aren’t regarded as credible staff members.
Should we take care to live fully into the people God made us to be, to be His creative, fun-loving adults called to reach teenagers? Absolutely. Should we live into the impression that, because of our calling, youth workers are irresponsible? Absolutely not.
Administration within the context of youth ministry is complex. It’s different than normal or typical administration because we’re not moving paper for paper’s sake. The administrative happens because we’re working to reach and disciple teenagers. And, it’s not always easy to think bottom line when we’re also trying to rethink jello wars, right?
Tim Baker has been a youth worker for nearly 30 years. He’s the editor of YouthWorker Journal and the author of more than twenty books for teens and youth workers. Tim’s the parish administrator and a youth worker at Trinity Episcopal Church in Longview, Texas. He’s the father of three kids and has been married to his wife, Jacqui, for 25 years.
This post was originally published by youthworker.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.