Enjoyed reading AC’s blog yesterday about Ministering to Students in Crisis - I get to work with him everyday here at the church and am so thankful for someone who cares so deeply for students! Here’s an excerpt from his post, check out yoacblog.com for the rest:

  • PRAY CONTINUALLY -1Thessalonians 5:17     

Prayer should always be your first response. God has incredible plans for your students, and He wants you to be apart of it.  We must stay in communication with Him.  Connect with Him for the words to say and the steps to take, as you support students.

  • LISTEN WELL AND ASK QUESTIONS – James 1:19

Students that are going through crisis need you to do these two things more than anything else. I know it’s so tempting to give them advice because you’ve been where they are or you know the solution to the problem.  Taking the time to intently listen and ask questions says a lot.  You never know, you could be the only adult in their life who listens to them intentionally.

  • REMEMBER ONLY GOD CAN CHANGE THE HEART – Philippians 1:6

You are here because you like students and want God to do something awesome in their lives. God is going to use you.  We must remember that even though God uses us, He is the only one that can change hearts. So don’t carry the burden of this situation, thinking that you are the one that will change your students’ heart. God is faithful, He will fulfill His promise and complete the work that He has used you to begin.

JG

Youth leaders are vital to the success of your ministry. We all would admit that we cannot build a healthy student ministry without leaders! We all need leaders and volunteers no matter what size student ministry you may have. Here are my thoughts on ways to keep your youth workers on board with your vision and your ministry:
  1. Build a healthy relationship with them- When you recruit youth workers, choose people who you can have a relationship with. One of the coolest things about our youth leaders is that most of my wife and I’s closest friends serve in our student ministry. So, we have some strong relationships with the ones who are in there! If you want to keep youth leaders long-term, you need to have a relationship with them.
  2. Listen to their feedback- I came from a small church where we had 30 students and a few youth leaders that I personally recruited. I basically started the youth group from scratch and the Lord blessed. Then, He moved me to a different church with about 75 students and about 25 youth leaders. They knew the system way better than I did. One thing that I tried to do and still do is listen to their feedback and ideas. Some youth pastors have a way of doing things, and they are not open to ideas from their youth leaders. This is something that turns people away from serving in your ministry so listen to their feedback, and do not be afraid to use their idea and give them the credit!
  3. Show them that they are appreciated. I am reading a book right now called, “life in student ministry” by Tim Schmoyer, and he constantly is hitting me hard about praising your youth leaders! This is a great way to keep youth leaders with you. They must feel like their ministry is important to you. They must know that you appreciate them. Try your best to pay for their ministry stuff. Our budget cannot handle paying for every youth leader for every event, but we try to cut cost for leaders and be a blessing to them. If we had the budget to pay for every leader, I for sure would take that and apply it! Shower your leaders with gifts and blessings. We just had our Christmas party, and we got each leader a Christmas photo of their entire small group. It was not too expensive, and it means a lot to our leaders. They must know that they are appreciated if they are going to serve with you long-term.
  4. Your heart must be fleshed out- Volunteer youth leaders do not want to serve in your ministry if they cannot see that you genuinely have a heart for your students! They must see your heart, passion, and enthusiasm for this ministry lived out!
  5. Cast vision regularly- Vision is not something that you cast once a year! This is something that the leaders need to be reminded about over and over again! They must hear where you feel God wants to take the youth group. You must cast is regularly, and you must live out the goals and vision that you are casting!
  6. Train them- Leader training is so important. This is something that we are working on, but we are going to try to improve even more on. Your leaders need training. We always have areas that need improvement, and you need to provide this for your leaders. They also need to be humble enough to be willing to go through some training.
  7. Pray with them- There is nothing better than having a relationship with your youth leaders where you can drop down and pray with them. You both need this relationship! Ask them how you can pray for them and their families! They need to be assured that you are praying for them outside of youth group.
  8. Model their job description- Many times we have a job description for youth leaders that we as the youth pastor hardly hold! The youth leaders need to see you living out the Christian life as well as the job description and standard that you hold them too.
  9. Let them lead- Many times youth pastors want to do things themselves. We are human, and we struggle with being on an inward power trip thinking that we can do things better than the youth leaders. If you give them a responsibility, allow them the authority to carry it out.
  10. Support them- You must support them from the pulpit of your church as well as from the pulpit of your student ministry. They must know that they are supported by their student pastor. Support them in front of the students and take their side on issues unless it is a moral problem on their part. They must feel supported.

Josh Evans is the student pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church in the Winston Salem, NC area. He has been a mentor and pastor to students for 4 years. You can connect further with Josh on his blog or send him a direct email at joshhevans@gmail.com.



Last night I spent some significant time with a great friend well outside of the day-to-day operations of our church.

He’s one of the few people that understands and gets me and what I do more than anyone else. He was a youth pastor in the past and his insight, wisdom and listening ear alone made me walk away refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of another season of youth ministry.

Reflecting on it this morning made me so thankful to have him in my life, and brought back memories of that dark period early in my career when I did youth ministry alone. I didn’t know better. I was a lone ranger. I was living dangerously. And today I just wanted to encourage you to find someone like this in your life – they’ll be more valuable to you then you will ever know:

  • You need a safe person to vent to when things get tough
  • You need someone with an outside perspective to shine some light on things
  • You need someone who will set you straight when you’re wrong
  • Sometimes you just need someone to listen to your thoughts
  • We all want someone to cheer us on

You can get some of these things from a youth worker network, from podcasts and even blogs to a degree. But there’s nothing better than a late night hang at Denny’s with a real friend with no agenda.

Don’t stop searching until you find one.

JG

It doesn’t happen all the time, but every once in a while you will get one or a few students that have a concern about some element of your youth ministry and want to talk about. These are not conversations I look forward to, but I have had enough of them that I can share the steps I use to get through it and keep the leader-student relationship intact.

Listen: The student who is coming to see you has likely thought long and hard about this conversation, so when you meet let them speak. Makes notes if you have to, the more information you get, the more you have to work with as your respond. The student might be expecting you to just dismiss them so hearing them out will be very disarming and allow a great conversation to follow.

Is it Biblical?: Now that you have heard the student’s concern about the program, are they highlighting something we are doing that is contrary to scripture? This is a great question to ask the student and chew on with them. It might put them on the spot, but it drives home the point that our goal should be to have a Youth Ministry that functions in accordance to Biblical principals. The majority of the time, student complaints are a reflection of taste and personal preference and that you are not running the youth group to their desire and if this is the case, remain calm and proceed to step 3.

Articulate the vision: Perhaps they don’t know why you don’t have the latest Skillet album playing every week when students are arriving, or that having acoustic worship as opposed to a full band means that the Worship team has less opportunities to serve. If you ask me to explain the intentional elements and reasoning behind our youth services, you better be sitting down because I could take an hour. The students don’t know all of that, and when you share why you do one thing and not another they appreciate the insider look at why things are done a certain way. While you are at it, share with that students where God is moving in the area they are concerned about, they might be surprised to hear it.

Recap and clarify: They have come to you with something they think might be wrong; make sure that you have not confused that student with Christianese Pastor Talk. This is the time to prove that you listened but reiterating their concerns and summarizing your response to it. This is really meant to make sure that they don’t leave frustrated for feeling unheard because you may not agree with them, but you cared enough to hear them out and explain why things are not changing.

Thank them: Sticking your neck out does not come easy to everyone and for a student to make time to come see you and share something they are passionate about is a big deal. Make sure you thank them, not only for their time, but for their passion for the youth ministry and willingness to talk to you and not to talk to all of their friends instead (they probably did talk to their friends about it, but verbally giving them the benefit of the doubt will go a long way). You don’t have to agree with them to appreciate the feedback/criticism, take it and be thankful.

These sort of conversations are not my favorite, but are a necessary part of being a Youth Pastor and if done well, are amazing growth opportunities for students and ourselves.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Want to get in on the fun? See how right here.