Transition could mean a large number of things in youth ministry. We often talk of transition into junior high, into youth involvement, and the transition into high school. We talk about life change and all the physical, mental, and spiritual transition that comes with it.
But how often do we discuss vocational transition in youth ministry? More specifically, how often do we talk about how to transition into and out of a church and youth group as a youth worker?
Whether the solo, full-time, paid director of a youth ministry, or “simply” a volunteer, two things are undeniable:
- You are an influencer with lasting impact on the students and adults you encounter and lead.
- How you transition into and out of your role greatly affects that impact.
Oftentimes we are so consumed with the excitement and possibilities of a new chapter in our lives, including all the new relationships and new ministry opportunities, that we run headfirst into our role without ever reflecting on how to step in well with purpose and intention.
Whether you are just beginning your first student ministry role, have moved to a new position, or just recognize a need for some change in your current ministry, the following tips can help you focus and increase the impact you leave on the lives of those around you.
- Be a learner and a friend before you make changes
Before you run in with all kinds of ideas, work to be a highly-engaged learner observing the culture you are dealing with.
- What are your students like?
- What are they looking for?
- What are they needing?
- What is the vision and direction of the people in the church?
- What are the gifts and needs you see in this community of believers, and how can you come alongside them as a loving brother or sister looking to “spur them on”?
Try waiting at least a year before you start making big changes, so you get the gist of the church’s annual rhythms.
- Be a part of the journey, not the end-all-be-all
Ministry and spiritual formation are lifelong processes. In youth ministry, we only get a handful of years in the entire lifespan of the student God entrusts to us. So rather than trying to pump out completely capable, fully mature Christians in 6-7 years, it might be more beneficial and prudent of us to consider the long-term effects of our time with them.
In other words, we are playing the long game here.
You are simply one individual, with a limited set of skills, gifts, and traits in a long line of people that will inevitably influence these students. So how can you be most faithful to this season of their lives as they progress on a continuous journey with God?
Remember, God began the work within them, and He is faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). Do not put so much pressure on yourself to make things happen right now. My guess is He has walked alongside you through every life stage you experience, not just adolescence. He will do the same for them.
– Kurtis Vanderpool
- What are the most important things I hope to leave with these students after my time here?
- Who will be invested in these students’ lives long after their time in youth ministry?
- What can I do now that will create a lasting rhythm of discipleship in their lives even after I am gone?
- How can I benefit the people that will be in their lives longer than I will? Parents, siblings, church members, etc. All of these people will absolutely have more impact on who they become because their time with them vastly outnumbers yours.