Generally, a Youth Pastor works with a lot of different students. A Youth Pastor may work with a student who is: shy, creative, vocal, cynical, smart, naive, sarcastic, bold, confronting, depressed, lonely, dumb, hilarious, emo, skater, surfer, conservative, liberal, high personality, band nerd, athlete, low personality, etc… The beauty about working with many students is that they will tell you how it is. They are real and authentic, not necessary about their spirituality, but about how they feel towards you.
We, as Youth Pastor cannot and will not connect and relate with every student. Students can easily sense a fake or an insecure Youth Pastor. Students can effortlessly find your insecurities and call them out—loud and proud if they do not like you.
During my first two years of Youth Ministry, I would get offended, depressed, and upset that my students were making fun of me. Some of the students would say a comment or two about how I was too boy bandish (not a kernel of truth in that comment! ; ) ). However, over the years not only have I built a tolerance to negative words from students, but I simply just get over it and put up with it.
For example this is how I deal with a student’s negative words/comments. If one of my students begin to make fun of me, I will continue to make fun of me with them. Essentially I would play along with them. By me playing along diffuses the critique. Students know how to push Youth Pastors’ buttons; and they want a reaction. If you give them one, they will continue to do it. Although if you respond, and not react, to them they will slowly stop.
The most frequent negative comment I would receive; would be: Jeremy, you are weird! During my first two years, I would take this comment personally, become shut down, and throw a pity party. Now, I play along with the joke. If a student(s) say I am weird, then I first say “Thank You”, God created me like this, and I continue to keep getting weirder in the moment. For me if someone says Jeremy you are weird, I take it as a compliment and not a critique.
It boils down to the Youth Pastor being comfortable and confident (not cocky) in his or her own skin. One needs to know who they are as a Youth Pastor and as a person. Students will immediately detect if their Youth Pastor is trying to hard to be someone that they are not. It is important not to take yourself too seriously, but God’s work seriously. Be a Youth Pastor that exhibits humility, care, gentleness, confidence, awareness, and sensitivity.