Being ‘liked’ has gotten a whole new dimension since Facebook introduced the concept of ‘liking’ something (or someone for that matter). But for youth leaders the issue of wanting to be liked has always been a tough one. I think we’ve all been at the point where we want students to like us and where we want to feel accepted by them. We rationalize it, saying we can’t really be effective in youth ministry if the students don’t like us. If we want students to trust us, to confide in us, we need to be liked. Or do we?
It’s perfectly okay to want students to like you. I’d be worried if you could care less. But the extent to which it influences your decisions, to which it dictates what you do, that is something to think about. After all, you’re not their buddy, you’re not their BFF, you’re their youth leader. And being a youth leader isn’t about being liked, it’s about leading our students to Jesus, time and again.
We don’t need our students to like us, we need them to follow us to Jesus. That won’t happen if we base our opinions and decisions on whether it will make us popular or liked. We need to make our choices based on what Christ would do, about what’s best for our students and the youth ministry. Because there will be times when you’ll need to make decisions that won’t win you popularity points. There will be instances where you’ll need to do the right thing, instead of the likeable thing.
I remember when I took over the organization for our yearly weekend retreat. We went with a group of about 60 students (age 16-22) and leaders, distributed over 25 cars or so. Most of the drivers were youth who only had their driver’s license for a short time and it was about a three-hour drive. So I instituted a very strict ‘evening clock’ because I wanted to make sure they had enough sleep to drive safely, meaning everyone had to be in bed by 01.00 am on the last day. The students were furious with me, arguing that there had never been an evening clock and nothing had ever happened. I stood my ground and the youth grudgingly went along with it, but they really didn’t like me at that moment and that’s an understatement.
Did I care? Of course I did, I really didn’t like the fact that they were being so angry with me. But I knew it was the right thing to do, even if it meant being unpopular. The funny thing was that the next year, there was far less grumbling about my evening clock and after that it was an accepted policy. And about four years later one of my most vocal youth ‘opponents’ came to me and thanked me for making that decision. You see, he had become a leader in the junior high ministry and now knew what the responsibility of a leader felt like. But even without that, I never doubted I had made the right decision.
Question: How important is it for you to be liked? Has it ever affected your decisions?
Rachel Blom is American at heart, Dutch of nationality, but at the present lives in the south of Germany with her husband of sixteen years and their 3 yr old son. She’s a youth ministry enthusiast who’s focused on helping leaders serve better in youth ministry through her daily blog www.youthleadersacademy.com and Tweets @youthleadersac