After starting out by hitting my head against several brick walls in the first few months on the job as a part time parish youth leader, I wish someone had sat me down and given me advice to get off to the right start at the parish. So now 23 years in youth ministry, I have decided to write some advice for any one who’s new as a youth leader.
Advice for new youth leaders:
1.) It’s Not About You, It’s About the Teens -
The world and our Church has seen enough self centered leaders. We don’t need one more. It’s about the teens, the people you were called to serve. The more you start off focusing on them, the more solid your youth ministry will be. When we start doing things like comparing ourselves, only talking about ourselves and becoming a complainer – those are all signs it’s becoming more about us than the teens.
2.) It’s More Important To Become a Good Steward Than to Become an Owner –
God and your pastor aren’t only asking you to be merely in charge of something, they are asking for you to be a good steward. This means that God is in charge and it is God who owns everything. Your time, the LCD projector, your computer, your books, your budget and countless other resources available are all God’s and not yours. Do your best each day to be a good steward of those things and let them bring glory to God! Make sure your ultimate accountability is not only to your pastor or bishop, but to God himself who sees and knows all things.
3.) You Can’t Over Communicate -
When’s the last time you heard someone say that you over communicated something? With today’s fast paced twitter/Facebook/Email world we exist in, there is no reason for people not to hear from us about what is happening in our ministries. Make sure your start out by having regular communications with teens, parents, core and anyone who needs to hear it from you first.
4.) Youth Ministry Requires More Than You Alone Can Give –
No solo acts in the Catholic youth ministry world. Start off realizing that you won’t be able to reach all the teens and families you want to reach by yourself. It is one of the reasons I love Life Teen so much – we require it be ministry as a team. A core team, partnering with your DRE, Pastor, music ministry and your diocese. We also partner with parents, schools and others in youth ministry in our area. The fastest way to youth ministry burnout is trying to be a lone ranger. Realize from the start that you need other people to be on the journey of youth ministry with you.
5.) Your Spirituality Shouldn’t Flow Out of Your Ministry -
If you start off thinking that just because you are “doing spiritually related work” that you are somehow growing spiritually, you will be sadly awakened one day that that theory normally doesn’t work. Make sure you spend time every day working on your spirituality so that your ministry will flow from the overflow of your daily being filled with the Holy Spirit!
6.) Focus on Remaining Faithful Rather Than on Achievements –
There will come a day in your ministry when you will need to chose what is right and true over what will be the popular decision. In my experience, do what is right and be faithful rather than trying to do what is popular or will bring a false sense of success. In all things strive to be faithful. I have never known anyone who did this and wasn’t somehow affirmed by God for doing so.
7.) Emphasize Relationships Over Programming -
Don’t make it more difficult than it is by immediately focusing on programming and not spending the majority of your time getting to know the teens, parents, parish staff and potential core team members. Make relationships priority one from the beginning and don’t allow the paperwork, calendars, budgets and temptation to be over busy keep you from face to face time with teens. Make sure that you spend time on relationships with Adults as well as the relationships with teens.
If your new to Catholic youth ministry – welcome, the Church and the teens need you. You have said “YES” to one of the best ministries. Take a deep breath and each day allow the Holy Spirit to create you so the World can be renewed. One last piece of advice – don’t take yourself too seriously, but never take God’s work too lightly.
What other advice would you offer someone just starting as a youth leader?