Sometimes I get the occasional comment that goes something like this: “So when are you going to get a church of your own?” What they are really saying is ‘when are you going to grow up and be a Lead Pastor, Sr. Minister, or other more responsible position within the church?’ I generally just laugh off these comments while secretly thinking to myself “when are you gonna pull your head out of your rear end and realize I already hold a responsible position?!?!?!” Over my 14 years in this thing called youth ministry, I have been asked this question more than I care to count. I’ve noticed something, however, that gives me some encouragement…the more time I spend at a given location, the less I receive these comments. This has to do with two main factors that I hope will encourage you…
1. Relationships! with parents and especially grandparents and the older generation in the church are a HUGE factor to your success and credibility in youth ministry. Remember, they have been around the block a time or two…raised their children (or are right in the middle of it) and learned from years of making mistakes. The more time you spend developing solid relationships with them, the more they will respect your judgement and leadership.
2. Risk Management! This is a term not used much in the church world but in the Insurance industry it’s huge! People want to know their kids will be safe. As ministers of teens, it can be tempting to let them act out of their desire for Adventure and Excitement *a Jedi craves not these things* in the immortal words of our pointy-eared friend. The part of a teenager’s brain that controls the realization of actions vs. long term consequences has not fully developed. As youth ministers, we must have the wisdom to harness that desire and steer it in productive directions that will glorify God instead of making a parent mad because Jimmy decided it would be a good idea to peel out of a parking lot into oncoming traffic because he wanted to get a head start on the scavenger hunt. (yes it happened) When we can be responsible, parents notice!
As they notice your ability to develop relationships with people other than teens, and as the “adult” side of you makes responsible decisions with the well-being of their kids, your stability in ministry will improve and you won’t have to field the question of “So, what’s next for you?” so often.
Lyle Parker is the Youth/Worship Tech Minister in Fayetteville Christian Church.