On the way home from a recent youth ministry trip, I sat next to my colleague, Joe, on the plane. We both knew that in many ways, this trip was the last significant thing I’d do as youth pastor in our congregation. I was transitioning out and Joe was transitioning into my role. We both, I think, felt the weight of that – me in what it would mean to leave these teens behind; Joe in what it would mean to disciple them.
As we landed, I asked Joe a couple of questions about the mission trip he’d soon lead, the first he’d be flying solo on. Among them, I questioned, “Did you schedule an adult leader meeting for Madison?”
He looked at me aghast and said something along the lines of, “When am I supposed to do that?”
I replied, “You’re going to be so overwhelmed in the days and weeks ahead that it’s going to be tempting to skimp on training your adult leaders. Don’t.”
Joe quickly responded, “What should I skimp on then?”
It’s a valid question for anyone in a youth ministry setting, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in youth ministry for years. Youth workers only have so much time during the course of a week. Most of us already work far more than we get paid for. So where do we draw the line? How do we prioritize things?
Many youth workers prioritize time with kids.
That’s not a bad thing and believe me, I get it.
But I’d argue that when your time is limited, time with teens is actually not the right thing to prioritize.
Now, don’t mishear me. Youth ministry is relational, very much so. You need time with teens. But you need to spend the right time with teens.
When you’re stretched too thin, skimp on attending student events, especially ones that involve only a small number of teens. Skimp on social events, especially since there are already a ton of other places teens can go to have their social needs met.
Instead, do the programs that give you an opportunity to form the faith of your teens. These are, after all, what makes the church different than any school, park district, or community program teens can be a part of.
Since you cannot effectively do ministry alone, focusing on faith formation requires you to focus on developing adult leaders in your ministry. When time is short, that’s who you pour into. Prioritize recruiting, equipping, and training them. For every hour you spend training adult leaders, you equip them to pour into five more teens. That means that when you prioritize your adult leaders, you multiply your effectiveness, something that enables you to minister to more teens, not fewer.
No matter how tempting it might be, when things get crazy, don’t skimp on your adult leaders… Especially since it’s then that you need them the most.