After working as a rookie youth minister for over a year now, I see how this past year has brought so many blessings and opportunities. It’s been a year of growth and has changed me for the better. Here’s the top ten things that youth ministry has taught me so far:
1. It takes an army.
One of our greatest weapons as Christians is the army of saints in Heaven ready to go to battle for us and drench us in prayer whenever we ask. We should utilize this weapon as much as we can. Calling on the saints to intercede for the ministry and the youth God has put me in charge of has given me so much protection and grace. St. Peter has been my patron this year and has continued to inspire me with his boldness and courage.
2. It’s not about me.
I came into youth ministry with all these ideas and plans for how I thought the ministry should go. I learned very quickly that this ministry is not about how many cool things I can organize or how great of a talk I can write. Youth ministry is about seeing the needs of the youth God brings to us and showing them Jesus Christ.
3. There is always room for improvement.
One of the great things about youth ministry is that I will never be done growing, and there is always ways I can do better. There’s always something new I can bring to youth nights and different ways to approach ministry. This is why we as a staff attend conferences every year. These conferences teach us new things about youth ministry and bring fresh insights into helping bring youth closer to Christ.
4. Numbers are not indicators of success.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of counting kids at youth group to see how well our ministry is doing. Yes, it’s great to witness sixty kids showing up every week, but if they’re not encountering Jesus, it’s all for naught. Whoever God brings to us is who is supposed to be there. We have the opportunity to impact the lives of every youth that we see, no matter if that’s five hundred teens or five. When our journey on Earth is through, God will meet us at the gates of Heaven asking who else we brought with us. If it’s the ten kids we had consistently showing up to youth group, all of our efforts will be completely worth it.
5. Ask for help.
This one is a must. Find people who have done what you’re doing and ask them about their experiences. There are people who have been in your shoes before. There’s no need to make the same mistakes they did when you can easily learn from them. Yes, this takes humility, which brings me to #6.
6. God will always find new ways to humble me.
I often fall into believing the lie that I have to be in control and that if something needs to be done, I have to do it. God has shown me over and over and over again that while He appreciates my efforts, I am not the only capable human being on this Earth. There are others out there who are willing to help and are more than capable of taking care of things like helping with set up, leading games, or giving talks. I cannot do everything, and I don’t have to do everything. Empowering others is a sign of effective leadership. We must be willing to let others step in.
Whenever I think I’m in control, God loves to prove me wrong. No matter how many plans I make and how many scenarios I thought I’ve accounted for, something will always go differently than the vision I had. I’ve learned to roll with whatever changes happen with my plans because, thankfully, God always has a much better plan than I do. By surrendering my plans to God’s loving hands, I can have every confidence that I’m not standing in the way of however God wants to work.
8. Youth ministry is not easy.
People will be angry with us. They will disagree with our methods and think all we do is play games. We will have low turnouts to events that we put months of planning into. We will never see the impact we have in the lives of some of the youth. This is not an easy job.
9. But it’s worth it.
Being a youth minister is the most rewarding thing I have done in my life. Despite the struggles, stress, and spiritual warfare that come with the job, I know that this is where God wants me to be right now. I get the incredible opportunity to bring Christ to youth every week. For every plan that goes awry and every perceived failure, there is a moment of grace and an opportunity for God to work. This job has given me a passion for playing ridiculous games with teens if it helps them to trust me more. It has made me enjoy eating pizza or nachos or hotdogs for dinner twice a week in order to break bread with youth and provide a moment for community. Youth ministry has made me fall in love with the tone deaf and broken songs from hearts thirsting for something more. It is not always a glorious job, but the moments of grace I am privileged to witness outweigh any hardships I may encounter.
10. It is absolutely crucial to love whatever it is that you choose to do with your life.
Passion is what makes for an extraordinary life. Find your passion and pursue it. Don’t be afraid of small paychecks, adversity, challenges, or moving far away if it means you get to do what you love. Take a leap of faith, and let it change your life.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
-written by Kelsey Ricketson, former middle school youth minister of St. Mary’s in Caldwell