I think in youth ministry it’s easy to get caught in a certain ministerial tension between sticking to what works and remaining open to what the Holy Spirit may be asking you to do differently. Depending on your personality, you may find either end of the scale very rewarding, or very terrifying. If you tend to stick with what works, and get caught in doing the same predictable things over and over, here are some challenges for you:
Make a plan to meet someone new!
If your youth ministry seems stable and you have a lot of teens to “manage” consider this – commit to meeting one new teen this week. Whether at a school visit, the grocery store, or at the upcoming football game – engage a teen that you know nothing about. We can feel too comfortable sometimes just busying ourselves with the teens we know out in public places. Try to find and connect with teens you don’t know rather than the ones you do. Take the chance and engage someone new!
Make your school visit unpredictable
Is the time you enter the school, the door you enter, and the teens you approach in the cafeteria as predictable as the sun rising and setting? In a sea of teens – many whom you may not know – we all feel relieved to have those teens that welcome us with open arms, but we have to cast the net further. I always found I needed something to help me do this. Generally a food item to share was the way to go – whether if it was a box of cookies, chocolates, or Fruit Loops – a teen you do not know will ultimately get drawn to you just to ask to share the spoils! Giving out some dollar store bouncy balls can be fun too!
Bringing Parents into the Public Relations battle
I’ve found over time that parents can and will be some of your biggest advocates once they are on board with what you are doing at the parish. In turn, they have the best “street cred” when talking about the youth ministry with other parents. They are most likely and able to be “chatting” with other parents at the baseball game, football game, or hockey arena watching their kids play. Sometimes parents are so thankful for what you are doing and they have no idea how to express it. Often I didn’t know what to ask for! Ask them to advocate for the ministry when talking with other parents. Ask them to share the impact the ministry has had on their own children.
Often we can feel we are flying by the seat of our pants and in the tumultuous world of youth ministry that is often thrust upon us – so we inherently want some patterns of predictability around us. There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t forget to add some variety into your ministry, both to stretch you as a youth minister, and to follow Christ’s call to cast our nets into the deep.