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10 Thoughts On Leading A Youth Ministry

Running a youth ministry is very challenging work.  However with good management, followed by outstanding leadership,  judgment, hard work and integrity youth ministry can also be very rewarding and satisfying work too.

Ever since I first entered youth ministry I have always been collecting great practical resources on how to lead an effective youth ministry.   So for some odd reason, I have had this gravitation to always be looking for better ways to lead.

In the last two years at Orange, I had the luxury to not only learn from some incredible leaders but have been given access to talk with hundreds of youth pastors about how they run their ministry.  I learned so much on how to a run healthy, vibrant and sustainable youth ministry.  Two of my many pleasures in my work are:  1)  Learning from youth pastors and 2) Sharing what I am learning from other youth pastors.

This post is dedicated to sharing my learnings about leading the day to day youth ministry operation.

1.  Trust is everything.  You need to trust people and people need to trust you.  I hate to say this, but youth pastors, historically, have proven not to be very trustworthy because of their fly by the seat mentality and they have a difficult time trusting others.  When trusting people, other people tend to trust you in return.  Extending trust is one of the best ways to create trust when it is not there.  If you break trust with others, you might as well consider leaving your current ministry position.  Trust is the glue that creates for a healthy and impactful ministry.  Without trust, nothing you are doing in your youth ministry will work nor stick.

2.  Youth pastors must be reflective.  Youth pastors need to look at themselves objectively and analyze where they have made mistakes, where they’ve turned people off and where they’ve headed down the wrong path.  Taking a good, long and honest look in the mirror produces self awareness.  Self awareness is highly necessary when leading.  In my opinion, here are the top 9 mistakes youth pastors make (click here).

3.  Youth pastors must be highly reliable.  This is a very simple task, but most youth pastors fall short.  Returning phone calls, emails, showing up to meetings (on time), fulfilling commitments, having office hours, managing home life and staying healthy is all apart of being reliable.  Reliability is something that youth pastors must have in order to provide sustainability, trustworthiness and consistency in their youth ministry.

4.  Youth pastors must know how to run a meeting.  According to Patrick Lencioni, Death By Meeting, there are three type of meetings youth pastors need to have.  1.  Daily stand up meetings (5 minutes) 2.  Weekly tactical meetings (1 – 2 hours) 3.  Monthly strategic meetings (2 – 8 hours).  Youth pastors need to know how to wrap up meetings, draw conclusions, set up the time and agenda for the next meeting on the subject and to direct individuals in the meeting to carry out certain tasks as a result of the decision that have been made.

The single biggest structural problem facing leaders of meetings is the tendency to throw every type of issue that need to be discussed into the same meeting, like a bad stew with too many random ingredients – Patrick Lencioni

5.  Youth pastors must know how to lead under senior authority.  Youth pastors have to learn how to stay under authority.  Youth pastors are more entrepreneurial and mavericks by nature so it is more difficult for youth pastors to obey and sit under senior leadership.  Submitting under senior leadership is not a sign of weakness and conformity but rather a demonstration of obeying God’s authoritarian structure for His church.  One of the best senior pastors in America, Andy Stanley says to youth pastors:

You will never be over authority if you don’t know how to be under authority.

6.  Youth pastors must have a strategic vision.  What is the long term plan for your youth ministry?  Where will your ministry be in 3, 5 and 10 years?  Good planning, goal setting and clarifying the values and mission helps youth pastors define where they are taking their youth ministry.  Andy Stanley in his book Making Vision Sticks says: State the vision simply, cast the vision convincingly, repeat the vision regularly, celebrate the vision systematically and embrace the vision personally.
7.  Youth pastors must care for your adult leaders and staff.  You take care of your people by providing them resources, recognition and respect.  Make sure to thank your people a lot and both privately and publicly.  Find many ways to say thank you.  Caring for people brings health.  And health breads health.

8.  Youth pastors must have endurance.  Youth ministry requires long hours.  The daily, weekly, and monthly youth ministry schedule has many pressures, stressors and demands which will cause you to run empty on all levels (emotionally, physically, socially and spiritually).  This is unavoidable.  This is why only 30% of ministry leaders last.  When extremely tired, you have to dig deep and reach into your reservioir of energy and creativity to handle crisis situations (because there will be a lot of them) and have to get through the task.  I have found that physical fitness helps improve endurance and mental performance.

NIV Acts 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me– the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace

9.  Youth pastors must be an excellent communicator.  A youth pastor must be a meaningful, passionate, understandable, and impactful communicator (both written and verbally).  When a youth pastor communicates it is his/her responsibility to inspire, motivate and influence  parents, student, church staff and adult volunteers.  When communicating be clear, short and simple.

10.  Youth pastors must be masters at time management.  Youth pastors are soo busy.  Youth pastors need to have discipline schedule or your schedule will own you.  Make sure to include in your schedule a day off, time for reflection and strategic planning.  Remember staying busy and working long hours doesn’t equate effectiveness.  Focus and doing less for more equals effectiveness.  I offer a few posts that help youth pastors get better at time management:  How To Get Things Done and Get A Day OffYouth Pastor Productivity, and Youth Pastor Office Hours.

What would thoughts on youth ministry leadership would you add to the list?

What do you do that creates for a healthy and sustainable youth ministry?

About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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