I’ve been blessed to be able to work in youth ministry for the last (almost) 15 years. During that time, I have worked for a handful of para-church youth ministry organizations that support youth ministers in some fashion. I have been immersed in the “industry” of youth ministry, literally engaging and interacting with thousands of youth ministers and ministries over the years. You can’t imagine how rewarding this has been.
One of the things my perspective has offered is the opportunity to observe what makes youth ministers and their ministries successful.
I have always been drawn to proficiency. I admire people who do their jobs well. It doesn’t matter if it’s the young man in the drive-through at Chic-Fil-A, or the CEO of a large company. I like to see people who care about what they do, and do it well. This is especially true with youth workers. I love to see folks who are great at doing youth ministry, and especially WHY they are great.
I was thinking the other day what a list of characteristics that awesome youth pastors have would look like. I don’t think what I have is exhaustive by any means. But I think it’s a start. Below you’ll see a few of the traits I’ve noticed in awesome youth workers. I wonder what you would add to the list? (Feel free to share in the comment section below.)
Some of the best youth workers I have seen over the years have a real zeal for their work. I don’t mean that they are always happy, or over-the-top cheesy. And I am not necessarily talking about extreme extroverts. It’s more about projecting a certain tirelessness, a passion for what they do, a JOY for the work. This type of positive energy is contagious.
Armed With A Plan
The best youth workers know where they are going. They have long-term spiritual goals they want to see accomplished in their students. And they have done the work to know what it takes to get there.
An Ability To Clearly Communicate Vision
It’s no good if you have a plan but can’t articulate it. The best youth workers I know have the ability to clearly communicate their plan to parents, students, staff, and volunteers. And they do so in such a way that those within their ministry internalize this vision, making it their own.
Part Of The Team
The best youth workers I know aren’t just leaders of a team, they are part of one (if not many). It’s vital that youth workers are able to “lead in community,” where they are fully invested as a member of their staff, their volunteers, their student leadership team, etc. Great youth workers understand there are no lone wolfs.
Keep Their Calling In Full View
The best youth workers I know keep their calling in front of them. They don’t lose sight of the big-picture. They clearly focus on why they do what they do. And this permeates all aspects of their ministry. These youth workers understand the focus of their ministry is Christ, and leading teenagers to become more like Him. The various aspects of ministry are in balance.
Boundaries are essential. Without them, ministry and the minster will undoubtedly suffer. The best youth workers I know understand this, and they put boundaries in place. These boundaries primarily protect their personal growth and their families. Boundaries are the great burnout preventers. Setting boundaries and keeping them lead to longevity, which means increased influence, something we all want.
Freely Demonstrates Grace
You can’t be in ministry for very long and not encounter those who test your patience. Whether a parent, student, volunteer, or church staff member the likelihood is pretty much 100% that you will experience conflict with someone at some point. Those youth workers who freely extend grace find themselves in a better position to impact lives. That’s just the truth. Those who harbor grudges and are vindictive won’t last long. And even if they do, this kind of behavior short-circuits ministry opportunities.
Now, I don’t want to imply that I’ve ever met a perfect youth worker. And I don’t know that I can say I’ve met someone who has all of these traits. But the best youth ministers I have been around have some combination of these traits.
Maybe you see some areas in which you excel. Maybe you see some in which you may could stand to grow some. My prayer is that this list serves as a starting point for your own contemplation of the way in which you go about the work of youth ministry.
Header image provided through creative commons by Natesh Ramasamy.