The Youth Ministry Goose: Taking Care of the Adults in Your Youth Ministry
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey reminds us of Aesop's familiar fable of the goose and the golden egg. A poor farmer realizes that one of his geese is laying golden eggs. Day after day the farmer discovers a new sparkling solid gold egg under the goose. But eventually he gets tired of waiting for the next egg to be produced. So he cuts open the goose to get more, only do discover that the goose is empty.
We often focus on what gets produced rather than what is doing the producing. We concentrate on the outcomes themselves rather than pouring our effort into the source of those outcomes. Translation for youth leaders? Often, we care too much about having more kids showing up, or even upon kids growing spiritually—but we aren't always willing to give proper attention to our youth ministry partners.
Yesterday I interviewed seven prospects for youth ministry leadership. Probably half of them will pan out for the fall. This is the first step in caring for geese: we need to actively pursue them. Youth ministry isn't supposed to be a one-man show, and we definitely don't need all of the attention. Having more leaders around will not only help keep us from burning out, but they'll also help keep our egos in check. Since we don't want to overextend the leaders we already have, constantly recruiting more leaders also shows that we value the adults we're working with.
I've also found it helpful to spend enough time with individual leaders to help them find their specific areas of giftedness. Like a good coach, I want to make sure my players are in the right positions. Even the best quarterback in the world will get pummeled when he plays linebacker instead of the position he's most suited for. I try to get to know my leaders' interests, passions, and gifts—and help match those up with needs within my youth ministry. When a leader finds his perfect match in ministry, he is most fulfilled and most effective. He will begin to lay golden eggs (figuratively speaking, of course!)
We must not only think of them once a year. Throughout the seasons, it's important to look for opportunities to build them up. I've seen youth pastors take their leaders out for lunch fairly regularly. Some give them a great annual retreat that pampers and refreshes them. Many offer training that helps them be more effective in their ministry roles. I like to send thank-you notes for a job well done. You could have them over for dinner at your home, or go to the movies with them. The bottom line is that if you treat the goose right, she may just stick around for another year of fruitful (golden) ministry.
I have a pet peeve: I don't like the term “volunteers.” I refer to our youth leaders as “ministry partners,” because it's a title that elevates. They're partners with me in doing ministry, not subordinates to dump work onto. I think it's important to allow the language, and even the title I give them, to reflect the value I see in them. (You could call them youth ministry geese…er, maybe not.)
Adult youth workers who partner with us in ministry really do provide golden eggs for our kids. Let's take care to not kill the geese in our midst.
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.