In my first summer of youth ministry I took a group of middle school students to a work camp that had a profound impact on my life as a teenager. During some of the free time I ran into one of the founders and proudly shared with her my calling to youth ministry. She looked at me and smiled, then responded with some words that crushed my heart:
“That’s great, what do you plan on doing next?”
I was confused by the question so I asked,
“What do you mean by next?”
“Well, you can’t do youth ministry forever, what job are you going to get next?”
Powerful words that could have pushed me away, but instead I leaned in. Seven years later I’m enjoying this journey and there is no sign that this is coming to an end. The reason I could push those words aside were due to the words of encouragement I received from other veterans in the industry.
Because of that experience I’ve made it a goal of mine to help other youth pastors go the distance. Each year that passes by I realize how important it is that we have youth pastors who are not only energetic and dynamic but willing to go the long haul. Why? Because with long distance youth ministers we have:
- Consistency That Leads To Deeper Growth: Our faith journey is a marathon and our students need to know that someone is going to be there to run with them. When you are there by their side on a regular basis your relationship grows, you become comfortable with one another and the conversation goes deeper.
- Life Change In Our Own LIves: One of the most amazing parts of my journey is seeing how God has used teenagers to humble and strengthen me. There will be times when a teenager challenges you with his words or actions. There will be a time when you are questioned about your own decisions. And how you respond is key because teens know when you are faking it.
- Building Momentum In The Ministry And Church: I’m not a political guy but I often wonder how we as a country can move forward when a president only has four years to lead us. As youth pastor you oversee the young church, which will influence the greater church. We aren’t just here to plant seeds, but cultivate, prune and water the next generation.
Again, I’ve only been doing this for seven years, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is how much youth workers need one another. We can’t, nor should we do this alone. Youth ministry is an industry that is crucial to the future of the church and family. Youth ministry is a calling and shouldn’t be wasted on ski trips and all night Bowleramas. If you feel called to youth ministry and want to be here for the long haul:
- Connect yourself to like minded youth pastors
- Work on the relationship you have with your coworkers (especially the pastor)
- Invest in your family
- Invest in God
Why are you in ministry for the long haul? Why are you called to ministry?