Chris Wesley: How To Build Youth Ministry Endurance

Youth-Ministry-SimplyThis past weekend, thousands of youth ministers participated in the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. As a participant in the past few, I know that feelings of empowerment and encouragement are flowing through this year's attendees' minds and souls.

The reason these conferences can be such a powerful experience is because of the camaraderie and the opportunity to take a youth ministry “time out”.

The problem with a conference like Simply Youth Ministry is that it’s only a weekend. After a weekend of euphoria you are forced to go home and face:

  • That hurting teen
  • A pastor you clash with
  • An angry parent
  • A semi-committed ministry team

Youth ministry is filled with hills and valleys. It’s like a long run with no end in sight. The only way to get through it is one step at a time. To endure in this emotional, exhausting journey that you and I call youth ministry, you need to make sure you:

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Network With Other Youth Workers: You can connect with these men and women at conferences, speak with your pastor or visit sites like the National Network of Youth Ministry. Build relationships with men and women who know what you are facing.

Set Up Limits: This means creating a schedule that protects your time at home, and what is most important at work. It also means learning how to say "no," even if the opportunity seems incredible. Work within your limits and see how God will bless you.

Seek Personal Accountability: Find men or women in your church that you can meet with to talk about life, share goals and call you out when you are straying from what’s important. If you don’t know where to start, talk to your pastor, ask fellow youth workers or talk with one of your volunteers to recommend people.

Embrace the Moments: Everything that is good in your ministry is significant. When a teen invites a friend, quotes something from your message on Twitter or testifies in front of their peers, remember it. For all the bad in youth ministry, there is so much good. As youth ministers, you need to celebrate and share it with your coworkers, volunteers, parents, teens and other youth workers. It’ll remind you why what you do is worth it.

Observe a Sabbath: As a youth worker, you need to find other ways of embracing the Sabbath outside of Sundays. While you might be at church, it’s still easy to mix work with worship. Take a day and spend it quietly with God or join a prayer group not associated with your church. If you can’t connect with God, you’ll make yourself more exposed to Satan’s tricks.

Youth ministry is a battle because you are dealing with changing lives and relationships. To truly survive and thrive you need to rely on God’s strength and love. Invest in people who will invest in you, and keep moving one step at a time. Your work, dedication and heart for the next generation is priceless ... fuel it.

How do you endure the long haul of youth ministry? Please share your comments.

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Md. Connect with Chris on Twitter at @chrisrwesley.

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