By Ben Kerns
Every week before youth group we have a half hour leader’s meeting for our volunteer youth staff. This is, by far, the most important meeting of my week. It is an opportunity for our entire staff to touch base before we jump into another night of student ministry. Over the years these meetings have taken on many different looks. But as I continue to reflect on how to make that time a win for everyone, I have landed on my three most important components to an effective leader’s meeting.
1. The Check In: Full time student ministry is my job. It is the thing that I spend a majority of my time thinking about, praying about, and trying to improve on. This is not true for my volunteers. They have real jobs that take 40-60 hours of their lives. That job is the thing that takes up most of the free space in their brains. They come to youth group after a long and hectic day at work, or at home with their own kids, or from class. When they walk through the door, they are often frazzled and rushed.
Checking in allows us to actually care for each other. The volunteers are not filler to this ministry, they are this ministry. And it is important that as the leader of this team we see them as people with real lives, concerns, joys, and sorrows. Allowing space for people to share their outside lives together unites the group and builds emotional strands towards each other and actually deepens our sense of team.
2. Head’s Up: This this the meat of the meeting. It is the time to discuss what is going on in student ministries. Every week this time has a little different focus. Often it is giving the leaders a head’s up to what is in store for the evening. What the games are and where I need their help, where we are going with the message and ways that can maximize their times in small group. This allows the staff to go into the evening knowing what you know and expecting what you expect.
Periodically, this time is also used to make slight adjustments. Nothing is ever stagnate in student ministry. Often I notice a change in our group dynamics or a leader brings to my attention something that has not been working. Sometimes my leaders or myself will slip into a funk with their small groups, and we need to give room for conversation, equipping and encouragement. By making space for honest critique and feedback, we model that we truly are a team doing ministry together.
3. Pray Expectantly: It is easy to let the weekly grind of student ministry bring us down. Students are fickle and if we are not careful it is easy to put them in a box. Especially after being in a church for a few years it becomes second nature to peg students as the hard ones, the shallow ones, the busy ones, the dramatic ones, the hypocritical ones, and the lost causes. But this is a lie from the pit of hell. God makes it very clear that he always leaves the 99 and runs after the 1, that God is the author and perfecter of their faith and has been and will continue to be at work in their lives.
I have found that it is vital that we end our time together as a staff leaning into the heavenly realities about our students. To ask that our eyes would be his eyes and our hearts would be his hearts. That we would be the people who stand in the gap for these students and will gladly love them into the kingdom of God. We intentionally wipe the slate clean every week and give all the space in the world for students to be exactly who they are this particular week. And as they are fickle, we remind ourselves that we are the adults and will not be fickle. We will pray expectantly, counting on the fact that God will use our feeble efforts to draw these students to ourselves.
Now lets go love on some students!
After a career ending knee injury, I left competitive curling and have dedicated the last 15 years of my life to loving students. I enjoy partnering with other youth workers to help students come to know and follow Jesus. I am a network facilitator for the pacific southwest for the Evangelical Covenant Church and have been a resource for other youth workers for the past 7 years. I still bring pizza to any and every youth gathering. And now have to run 20 miles a week to burn off the pizza weight in order to keep the love alive with my wife. I love my kids, baseball, writing (blog: average youth ministry), and my iPhone, and don’t understand Twitter. For the past 7 years I have served at Marin Covenant Church as the Pastor to Children and Students. You can check follow my struggling Twitter account at www.twitter.com/averageym.