Now before you jump down my throat for the title, just listen.
I’m going to be real with you for a second. For the l year as I have been in my new position as the lead next generation pastor I have felt like an awful youth pastor. I have not hung out with a majority of my students. I don’t know all of them. I have not gone to all of their games, plays, birthdays etc.
Do I go to events we do and interact with them? Absolutely. Do I mingle, pray for, and hang out before and after services? Definitely. Am I starting to know the names of those who are on our patio before services when I go and meet everybody? Yes. I am around, they are beginning to know me and they are beginning to leave notes on my desk (which I love) and they are asking me to hang out. For the most part though, I hang out with my small group of guys I lead and that is pretty much it. I mean, if a student wants to drop coffee or lunch, obviously go and do that but there are other students that come to our service every week but there is no way I can hang out with all of them.
And I am okay with that.
I had to come to the realization that it is okay to not hang out with students.
Here is why:
If I invest into leaders who invest into students, I multiply myself.
It is just a change of thinking. It’s a life hack. I know what some of you who are the extremely relational-type are thinking, “How can you be asking me to give up my time investing and discipleing students?” I’m not asking you to stop investing and discipleing at all, what I am asking you to consider it shifting WHOM you’re spending your time with. The life-hack is investing into your leaders more than ALL of your students.
Looking back at my year I have spent a majority of my time with our leaders. Even if your ministry is at a point where you can hang out with all your students the way you want (that is awesome because it is a gift, I wish I had the capability to do that) but as you grow you will need to switch to this model quickly to be more effective. The Andy Stanley quote comes to mind as I have been wrestling with this whole thing: “Do for one for what you wish you can do for all.”
Do I spend time with students? Yes, every week in my small group. I’m getting to know the guys in my group the way I wish I could know all of the students who come on a Wednesday night. How do I sleep at night, the highly relational youth worker who thinks they could be best friends with every single one of their students, asks? On my left side with two pillows. I know that our team trains, expects, practices, and communicates the importance of our adult volunteers to invest into a small group of students on their own and if every leader does this, every single one of our students will have a few adults from our team speaking into their lives. By me switching to a majority of my time being with leaders, investing in them, asking them about their lives, their faith and their family, I am modeling with them what I want them to do with the students they invest in. This simple tweak multiplies your effectiveness.
It really is a crazy thing because I got into ministry to hang out with students. I wanted to do this thing with my life where I pour into the lives of the students in my ministry. I’m sure this is what every single one of us who chooses to follow their calling in impacting teen-agers goes into this thing we call youth ministry for. As ministries grow and as we want to help students grow most effectively and spiritually, we HAVE to learn how to duplicate ourselves. This is the only way our students will feel connected with your ministry, it is the only way they will grow most effectively and spiritually. It is the only way for your ministry to grow in a healthy and sustainable way.
There will come a point (maybe you are there now) where you need to switch your thinking to hanging out students to hanging out with leaders who hang out with students… and that is okay.
For real though, it’s okay.
Now I’m not saying to never hang out with students; that would be awful. What I am saying is as leaders there comes a point where we have to go from doing what we wish we can do (hang out with all our students) to asking the question:
What will be healthiest and best for my ministry as it grows? Multiply yourself.
How can I get more buy in within our adult volunteers? Invest in them like you want to invest in all your students.
How can all of my students know they are loved, known and growing? Having adults own getting to know a group of students rather than all.
I don’t know about you but I want a healthy ministry. I also want to be healthy and not burn out with trying to keep up with every student. As much as I want to, I know I can’t. I know healthy things grow and I want my ministry to grow. I know as we have been working this year on achieving this culture. Yes, this is a switch in thinking, a switch in culture, a switch in giving away leadership roles, but it a life-hack in regards to your ministry in which help students be known, will help leaders lead and not just be baby sitters, and allow you to use your time to the best of your ability. This is a life-hack once embraced, you will see a growth and depth in your ministry in which you would not see otherwise.