As a young youth worker, I looked up to the “big guys.” These were the guys who were leading seminars and writing books. They were seen after as leaders, pioneers and trailblazers. We called them “experts” and learned from their wisdom and experience. I would listen to these brilliant men and I wanted to be just like them. Worse, I wanted my ministry to be just like theirs. I wanted the kids that they talked about in their stories and examples. I wanted the leaders and volunteers they bragged about. I wanted to tell of the great “God-Events” that changed lives of their students just like they did. The problem was, I was more into being like them and less into being like Jesus to my students.
We are in youth ministry because God called us into youth ministry. He called us; the weak, the broken, the flawed, the scarred, the awkward, the uneducated, the overwhelmed, the inadequate…because in our smallness, God’s BIGNESS is seen.
You see, we serve to bring glory to God, not ourselves. I don’t think we glorify Him when we separate our student ministry from the ministry and work He is doing within the larger community, all while mimicking the ministry of others. Yes, we can learn from them. Their stories can, and should, encourage and inspire us. And sure, their methods, models and strategies can be super helpful. But God has called them to their ministry, and you to your ministry.
The longer I have served in student ministry, the more I have realize the importance of seeking God first. I have been fortunate to meet and get to know some of my student ministry heroes. And, I have learned that many are less the expert, and more like me; just someone in the trenches trying to be faithful to the calling God has placed on my life.
So what can we do?
I think the first thing we might try is having a conversation with your lead pastor, elders, or church leadership. Talk about the state of the youth ministry. Ask if they think the ministries are siloed, or feel disconnected. Think of some opportunities where the student ministry and the larger church community might come together for worship, fellowship or service. Take some time to ask questions like,
- How do we as a church structure our ministry?
- Who’s casting vision?
- What’s the strategy to accomplish the vision?
- Is the student ministry aligned with the church, or are you doing your own thing?
- If not, what would it look like to bring the ministry into alignment?
- Is there a way to be more involved with the leadership team when it comes time to planning and dreaming about ministry?
These are good questions with answers worthy of another article. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the youth ministry island.
Written by, Jay Higham