Youth Ministry Isn’t a One Person Show
Having been in youth ministry now for 27 years in either a full-time or volunteer position, I have learned a thing or two along the way. Experience is an amazing, albeit challenging, teacher and it has taught me much. Some of these things I “learned” in college as I studied to be a youth pastor, but I never really understood until I was in the thick of real youth ministry. Some of these lessons include how to work with parents, maintaining healthy boundaries, taking time for yourself, and balancing work and family. One of the biggest areas of growth for me in my personal leadership has been delegation. As a youth leader, the ability to successfully delegate aspects of leadership in your ministry can be a game changer both for you and those in your ministry and those assisting you. Let’s look at some of the whys and how’s of delegation.
Why We May Hesitate To Delegate
As youth workers, it is often difficult for us to give away aspects of leadership that are part of the ministry we are being paid to lead. When we think about doing this we may feel guilty that we aren’t doing enough, that we may be burdening others with what we should be doing, or feel like no one else can do it like we do or as good as us. These are all understandable responses and we shouldn’t be looking to give away our jobs and all our responsibilities. We still are the paid youth leader and are in charge of the ministry. However, that doesn’t mean we need to be a one man or woman show who shoulders the weight of our ministry all alone, nor should we be.
As we know in youth ministry, the job never ends, there are always a million other things to do. I don’t know about you, but I can’t physically do them all. When I first started in my current job, I tried to take it all on myself- be everything to everyone. Whether it was emailing, budget, teaching, mentoring, etc. I felt like I needed to do it all. That wasn’t a realistic or healthy perspective to have and I am grateful I realized that early on. We cannot be everything to everyone or do it all ourselves- we may be good but none of us are that good (spoiler alert). As youth workers, we need to give ourselves permission to rely on others to help us. When we do this, it can help alleviate the unnecessary stress we put on ourselves to do it all. It frees us to really focus on the things we are good at and gifted in. It allows us to bring in others who also have gifts and talents that they can now use for the Lord. It reminds us that there are other ways than our own to do ministry, and sometimes they are even better than we could do ourselves.
Passing The Baton
Now that we realize and are ok with sharing some of our responsibilities, what do we give away and to whom do we give it? Here are a few suggestions:
Whether it’s in a large or small group setting, let some of your adult volunteers or even students do some of the teaching. Brainstorm topics with them, have them speak on what they are passionate about, or team-teach with them. Walk with them through the process as they develop their lesson and give feedback, but let them lead and teach.
Several of my adult volunteers are teachers by trade and they now get to use their gifts to speak on topics of faith that they are passionate about. Having students do some teaching is also great experience for them and many times the rest of the group pays even closer attention when one of their peers is teaching, as opposed to us “older” leaders.
Mentoring is one of my passions and spiritual gifts. It fuels me and gets me excited about ministry. It’s also impossible to mentor all of my students. There are probably very capable and willing adult volunteers in your ministry who would love to walk alongside students and mentor them. They may connect with some students that you don’t and this allows them to build an even deeper and richer relationship with those students. Your role in this can be helping to train your leaders in the area of mentoring and following up with them to see how it’s going and being a resource for them when needed.
You may have older students in your ministry as well who are mature enough to mentor some of your younger students. This again gives the older students great experience in serving others and looking to the needs of others, teaching them compassion and how to challenge and love others more effectively. Your role again here is trainer and accountability as your students learn the art of mentoring.
Most ministries have several fundraisers and service projects each year. Consider putting some of your adult volunteers or students in charge of them. Look for those with organizational skills and a passion for serving especially. Encourage your adults and students to think of new ways to serve in your community and then have them take ownership of that project. Support them and be a resource for them and watch what they can do. They may think of ways to serve and fundraise that you would have never thought of and the results can be amazing.
There are many other areas you may find that you can delegate to others who partner in ministry with you but these are a few to start with. Delegation is not about lessening your workload. It’s about inviting others to use their gifts and passions to benefit the Kingdom of God and specifically your ministry. We as youth workers cannot do it all, we need help. We have adult volunteers and students with amazing talents, passions, and gifts that they are waiting to use. We need to let them. This, in turn, allows us to better use ours and creates a ministry that is truly shared and invested in by many. Take some time to think and pray about your own ministry. What are some areas that you can delegate to others? Of your adult volunteers and students, who might be ready to take the lead in those areas and use the gifts God gave them? How can you specifically support and encourage them as they take on those roles? Let delegation be a game changer in your ministry too.
Frank Newburn is a husband, father of 3, and youth director for Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomington, IL. His ministry focuses include mentoring and discipleship, student leadership, and missions and has over 25 years of youth ministry experience. You can contact Frank at FNEWBURN@WESLEY-UMC.COM or check out his ministry at HTTP://WESLEY-UMC.COM/WESLEY/INDEX.PHP/GET-CONNECTED/YOUTH.
This post was originally published by LeaderTreks.org.
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.