By Ben Read
Odds are you have heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. My wife and I have not entered the phase of life where we have children, but I know this statement to be true.
I know it to be true because as a youth pastor, the same principle applies, whether we take advantage of it or not.
For several years, I worked as a youth pastor in small churches in small communities, and I loved it. But one of the things I can look back on and see is that I did not produce the greatest spiritual influence in the lives of the teens I worked with. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure I was influential in the spiritual lives of many of the teens I have worked with. But what I am trying to say is that the greatest spiritual influence on their lives didn’t come from me, but rather when another adult took a student under their wing and poured into the life of that student outside of church hours and the church walls.
I mention these small churches because these weren’t volunteers; I hardly had any. These were just adults who saw the importance of having relationships with the youth in the church for the edification of both the church body and the young believers’ faith.
I also mention it because as a young youth pastor working by yourself, you can often find it intimidating when you see growth occurring from elsewhere. You can feel like a failure when your students are blossoming under the mentorship of someone other than you or your youth ministry.
The things we wish we could take back.
If I look back on my life, and I’m sure if you do the same, it would be easy to see that no one person was the single influence on us. Sure, at different times, different people were integral in my spiritual formation and development. But if I had stayed with just my youth pastor for 6 years, and he had not equipped others to be in community with me, my life would probably be drastically different.
So here’s what you can do:
1 | Embrace community –Don’t fear the thought of others ministering to your kids. It’s easy to let our pride subconsciously trick us into thinking that if others minister to our students, it means we aren’t—and that means we aren’t performing our best.
2 | Encourage members – Not everyone in your church works with youth and that’s great. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have something valid to offer the students. If you get to speak from the big church stage at all, be it announcements or a sermon or just running up in the middle of worship with a word from the Lord, encourage the members of your church to build community with the younger members of their congregation.
3 | Equip volunteers – Those who do work with your youth need to understand their important role as leaders and mentors, not bouncers and chaperones. Equip them with what they need to minister to students, be it training articles/videos, Starbucks gift cards, or events for the large group that are intentionally building relationships.
4 | Emulate others – Odds are, you are where you are today because of others pouring into your life. Emulate what they did for you. Not only will this get you going in the right direction with one-on-one ministry, but it will also help serve as a model for others in your ministry/church. If we want others to do it, we better do it as well.
Ben Read has been mentoring youth since he was 18 years old. He grew up as a pastor’s son, but he and his siblings devoted themselves to breaking that stereotype. Ben met his wife, Sarah, while they attended Liberty University, and they currently serve youth in the North Shore area of Boston, MA.