Ten Keys to Being a Better College Youth Minister

by Derek Gentle


So you're a college student serving your first church as a part time minister of youth. Here are ten keys to doing your best:

IT'S NOT JUST AN ADVENTURE, IT'S A JOB!
You wouldn't report to work at a secular place of employment only if you felt like it. You wouldn't follow the instructions of your boss only as long as it fit in your priorities. It is dishonest to fail to give an honest week's work for a wage you've agreed to. It is wrong to disregard portions of your job description. And working in a church doesn't make it OK. Most churches realize that the ministry requires a great deal of flexibility and so trust their ministerial staff to be self-starters and to exercise responsibility. Don't give the Lord and His church any less than you would a secular employer.

YOU'RE NOT ONLY A SHEPHERD, YOU'RE ALSO A SHEEP
Follow the shepherd, not only Christ the chief Shepherd, but also your Pastor, His under-shepherd. Love your Pastor, respect him, share his vision. Realize that he is not only the Pastor of the church you serve, he is your pastor, too. Be loyal.

ORGANIZATION IS NOT A DIRTY WORD
There's a saying that God watches out for drunks and fools. It seems He also watches out for disorganized Student Ministers, but who wants to be in a category with drunks and fools? Don't count on things to work out, somehow. Allow your Youth Ministry Team to help you plan activities and trips. Their years of experience will enable them to anticipate problems and needs you would not. "Bear" Bryant was the winningest coach in major college football. I heard one of his former players explain, "Coach Bryant had a plan for everything. He had a plan if we were ahead. He had a plan if we were behind. He had a plan if someone shot the referee. He had a plan of he shot the referee" (a little exaggeration here, but It made the point). Taking care of the details can make the difference between being good and being great at anything.

REALIZE THAT YOU WILL HAVE MULTIPLE CONSTITUENCIES
Different people in the church will have different questions about you. The youth want to know, "Can he relate to me?" Church members inquire hopefully, "Can he build up the student ministry?" Parents worry, "Will he see that my child is kept safe while away on activities?" The senior adults wonder, "Will he see that the young people don't mess up the church van or tear up the building?" Everybody asks the question, "Can you count on Him?" Inquiring minds want to know!

LEARN THE "HINT DIALECT"
Your Pastor may give you an assignment, wording it so gently that you perceive it as "just a possibility you may wish to consider". This is their way of being tactful and watching out for your feelings. Because it isn't like the clear and direct way your dad used to tell you to cut the grass, it is easy for a young adult to allow such statements to pass by undetected. Yet, when one fails to pick up on them, people get aggravated--"I warned him about that, but he didn't listen." The Youth Minister finds himself wondering why everyone is upset with him.

STUDENT MINISTRY INVOLVES MORE THAN TAKING A BUS LOAD OF YOUTH TO A CHRISTIAN CONCERT
If all your youth program consists of is taking the group to canned events put together by someone else or driving a bus load to Six Flags, your church doesn't need a student minister. A volunteer Youth Committee could handle that with little trouble. Bible studies, discipleship groups, witnessing to teenagers, getting them involved in small group discipleship, etc. takes time to plan, prepare, and do. But this is where lives are changed. Don't take the easy way out; it takes work to have a balanced program.

YOU CAN'T GO FROM THE OVERFLOW WHEN NOTHING IS FLOWING IN
Be a learner. The Lord seems to bless our ministries most on the cutting edges of our own growth. Work on areas of personal spiritual growth and on developing your ministry skills. Avoid getting hung up on pet subjects. Seek to be well-rounded. Know doctrine as well as disciplines, learn innovative methods as well as those tried and proven. Take advantage of associational, state convention, and other training opportunities. One-day Sunday School conferences are more helpful than many seminary courses. Acquire a proficiency in Southern Baptist terminology. You need to know an RA from an Acteen and middle children from middle preschoolers.

REMEMBER, THEY ARE A YOUTH GROUP, NOT GROUPIES
Beware of building a personal following instead of encouraging young people to be followers of Jesus. Avoid being made into a hero or celebrity. Help youth express the life of Christ through their unique personalities; don't manufacture clones of yourself

DON'T START A CHURCH WITHIN A CHURCH
The youth group should not be a mere appendage to the church. Assist young people in realizing that the church is a family and that it takes all ages to make a family - uncles and grandmothers and parents as well as young people. Youth need to see what Christians look like as adults. They need to be part of the whole church family and the total church program. In the body of Christ, "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'..." (I Corinthians 12:21, NKJV).

BUILD A YOUTH MINISTRY TEAM
Play to your strengths and surround yourself with people with complementing abilities. Listen to your team. Involve the whole team; some of them can relate to and reach young people you cannot. Lead the team; don't wait for them to lead (or some Youth Committees will run over you). Have a ministry that can go on in your absence and continue after you are gone.