Many youth pastors struggle with what we are not and we envy the other youth pastors who are: cooler, prettier, more educated, more “postmodern”, more reformed, have a wife/husband, have better facial hair, funnier, better speaking and interpersonal skills, better blogs, better and bigger churches, going to all the YM conferences, better fashion and style, and better computer skills.
Here are 7 personal traits Youth Pastors need to focus on:
1. Be warm and friendly
A friendly, affable youth pastor will find themselves with happier students, leaders, and parents. Warmth can go along way. I am not suggesting you befriend everyone you meet, but a small church youth pastor needs to have the ability to make small talk, probe in on people’s personal life, and genuinely see the best in everyone. Warmth can possibilities earn someone’s loyalty.
2. Be firm
Unfortunately in life it’s far too easy to get taken advantage of. How does a youth pastor tailor (in a Christian way) to the huge demands and needs of our families in our church? We need to be assertive and not a jerk. We need to know the balance between being firm and being pushy. There is a big difference, it is called learning the art of being tactful and pastoral. When being firm be calm and relaxed, your demeanor will help diffuse the situation and the awkwardness. By the way, awkwardness is a very frequent thing youth pastors need to get used to real quick. If you cannot hang in awkwardness, then your youth ministry career will be very awkward. A common belief amongst youth pastor and ministry leaders is in order to be a great Christian youth pastor, you have to be as accommodating as possible. While this it true, you must remember that your needs and feelings are important, and that there is nothing wrong with speaking up when something doesn’t feel right. I think it is in our best interest to discuss any problems when they come up and resolve them within a reasonable time line.
3. Be honest
In “youth pasturing”, as in life, it pays to be honest. Being honest can be stressful or even scary in some situations, but it maintains realistic expectations and leads to better relationships. If you are running late please don’t say: “sorry I was praying with a student.” Don’t play the blame game. It is so easy for us to blame our constant tardiness on our ministry. I think a lot of us use Christianese as a defensive mechanism, when we are feeling awkward and fake. Don’t throw God under the bus, so you look good, spiritual, proper, and on time.
4. Know yourself
Knowing yourself means knowing your strengths and weaknesses. It means not promising what you can’t deliver and accounting for your shortcomings before they become a problem. If you know that you always over promise or that you find yourself missing deadlines over and over again, then you may need to stop and evaluate your own capabilities. Get a therapist and take time for yourself so you can become a better person and a youth pastor, instead of a burned out-jaded one.
5. Be thick-skinned
Unfortunately we don’t always like what a someone has to say. Sometimes students, parents, ministry leaders, and wife will critique our work or criticize your level of service. Having a thick skin will help you get past any offensive tendencies and give you the clarity to learn from negative feedback. If you can shrug off a bruised ego and listen to criticism for what it is – useful feedback, then you will be a much more successful youth pastor. The key to being thick-skinned is to be confident in your skills and abilities, and recognize your value to your church. You became a youth pastor because God called you there and has given you a valuable vision and mission. Don’t let a passive-aggressive email from parent get the best of you.
So when you receive criticism, no matter how uneducated the source may appear to be, do your best to listen impartially. Whether you find truth in it or not, real consideration of criticism can only make you a better youth pastor. Sometimes people involved in our church can surprise you, and you’ll find ways to improve your service or skill set from the most unlikely of sources.
I have deeply learned from the people who have hated me.
6. Stay calm
Being a youth pastor can be a high-pressure job. When something is going wrong, when a student is getting angry at you or when you’re not sure how you can fit all your commitments in, having the presence of mind to stay calm and not panic is an invaluable skill. The ability to stay calm is not an easy one to acquire, but it’s almost always the best way to solve a problem. Panicking helps no-one and is a very immature response. The best thing to do is to remember that the situation is transitory. If someone is angry, remember that they will get over it. Get perspective.
It is essential that as a youth pastor has confidence in your skills, and the vision God has given you. Bottom line we are the experts in youth ministry and we should feel comfortable and confident in our role. Confidence does not mean you need to pretend you know things you don’t know. Confidence is not cockiness. Know what you can do and do it well!