When in full-time ministry, there is a certain expectation of availability. If you are the youth pastor, I believe that you should avail yourself to those you serve. Not without limits, mind you, but when appropriate, I believe that we as youth pastors should work to be both approachable and welcoming!
So are you? Approachable? Welcoming?
Do people, students and adults, see you as someone they can talk to? Or, like middle school ministry, are you elusive, tough to get a handle on, or intimidating?
Middle school ministry is one of those ministry careers where you can quickly isolate yourself from the rest of the church. It’s all to easy to slip into the thinking that your ministry is strictly to students, with your focus is solely on your students. In doing so, you miss out on a much greater opportunity for incredible ministry.
Over the years I have found great joy and delight in learning how to be more approachable and welcoming to the congregation at large.
1. Leave Your Door Open.
If you have an office and keep regular office hours, try leaving your door open during the day. It’s always amazing to me just how many of the church family visit the church offices during the week. This is especially true if your church keeps regular office hours Monday through Friday. Whether dropping something off, or just popping in to say hi, a fair amount of people will visit the church during the week. It would be super easy to just close your door to the commotion of the visitors, but I would encourage you to keep your door open! I have been so blessed by the number of people who pop their heads in simply to say hi, or to share words of encouragement and appreciation, or to pray for me! Sure it might get a little distracting at times, but the greater win is that people see you with your door open. That makes you approachable. Plus, you might find that you have new opportunities to share what’s happening with your middle school ministry.
2. Be Free to Chat.
I often write about the importance of being organized and scheduled. Here is where being organize can really help. Being organized can help free you to chat with visitors. There is something special that happens when a visitor comes by the church. It starts with a purpose; they’re here to drop something off or to give information to the office. But then a conversation starts. Then the laughter. Then the joy knowing you have the greatest job in the world. Be free to chat. When someone comes into the office area, don’t be afraid to say hi, ask them how their day is going, or to follow up with them regarding their family. Take the time to listen, really listen. And don’t feel the need to counsel them. Sometimes they just need to get something of their chest. But being willing to chat, even for a few minutes, makes you both approachable and welcoming.
3. Create a Welcoming Space in Your Office.
For as long as I can remember, I have always had a chair of some sort in my office. It’s purpose isn’t to collect junk or for stacking piles of papers and books. It’s purpose is for the visitor. It’s a place for them to sit down, relax and talk. This idea was strengthened after attending the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, a number of years ago. The conference used a small red sofa as part of the conference promotional material. They even had an actual red sofa at the conference. The idea; sit down and talk, have a conversation, connect, and build relationships. For a number of years, I had a red sofa in my office. I wanted both students and adults to come and sit on the sofa. I wanted them to relax and talk. You don’t have to have a red sofa, but a place for someone to sit and visit helps create a welcoming opportunity.
4. Keep the Office as Clutter Free as Possible.
This might be hard for some of us, but a clutter free office speaks volumes! Now notice, I did’t say a spotless office, or a perfectly clean office. Those are hard to come by in youth ministry. Usually our offices are small and out of the way, leaving it easy for us to over fill or clutter it up. But as much as you can, try to keep the clutter to a minimum. Why? Well, a less cluttered office is just better to work in then one that has stacks of books and papers, dirty juice jugs, and crushed cans of Mountain Dew. Second, a clutter free office is more inviting to parents and adults. Sure your students might be able to overlook the empty pizza box still in the corner from last month’s lock-in, but parents…not so much. A clutter free work space is a welcoming space.
5. Remember, You’er A Shepherd Above Everything Else.
I’m not sure exactly when I learned that people were more important than programs, but I know that I learned it a number of years ago. Before this lesson, I spent a lot of time developing programs and events. Hours were spent crafting messages and talks, creating games, and working out the most awesome media presentation I could design. Those were hours not spent with people but alone. In my office. By myself. We are pastors, shepherds, called to care for God’s people, not God’s programs. More than once, my day has be hijacked by people. In fact just recently, I spend an entire day with people, unexpectedly. It was the day of a student gathering. I had a ton to do to get ready for it. But the whole day got jacked. And you know what? It was awesome! And amazingly, I still got everything done for the students later that night. My point, don’t say no to people just to say yes to programming. Yes, there are times when you have to get things done. But as much as you can, be available to be with people; students and adults.
Being approachable and welcoming isn’t a science. It just takes your willingness to do something that Jesus did frequently; he put others before himself. When we make ourselves more available to our students AND those in our churches, the more approachable and welcoming we become.
Don’t allow your ministry or your time to become something that just uses the building. Be approachable and welcoming and watch how the church responds to you and the student ministry. Great blessings come when we live like Jesus in putting others before ourselves.
Written by, Jay Higham