(tucker professional pic: All rights reserved by tjharms)
By Mike Berry
You see it all around you. It’s in every mall, every drive-thru restaurant, every retail store, every police officer during every traffic stop, every hospital ER and certainly in every corporation. It’s professionalism. Professionalism is one of the core ingredients of greatness; it’s a critical pillar to the world’s commerce.
Anytime you are paid to do a job the expectation is clear: you’re a professional. There are no exceptions to this. You could be a teenager making minimum wage at McDonalds but you’re a professional because your name appears on a paystub from the McDonalds Corporation.
So I wonder, as I look at today’s youth worker, why is the principle of professionalism missing so often? I’ve spent 16 years in the field of student ministry and, since day 1, one of my biggest goals has been to change people’s perspective of youth workers to see them as professionals. Student ministry has often carried stigmas like “all we do is play,” “trash the church” or “waste budgets.” The origin of stigmas like these: unprofessional youth workers. It’s true but it has to change. There is so much at stake with this profession. You and I are raising up the “now” generation for the Kingdom. If you’re paid as a youth worker in a church then you’re a professional. Truthfully, even if you’re a volunteer you should behave professionally.
Understand this: I’m not talking about dressing up for work or making sure you’re freshly shaven – it’s bigger than that. After all, this is 2012. A youth worker can dress in skinny jeans, Toms, dawn a fohawk and still be a professional. It’s not necessarily about looks (although it could be) but more about choices and behavior. Here are some questions to ask yourself when it comes to being a professional youth worker:
- Am I timely? Do I show up on time to meetings, events, and programs – or am I chronically late?
- Am I organized? Have I planned events or programs well in advance? Have I submitted necessary details to the right people in enough time to accomplish my goals and theirs? This is about communication and preparation.
- Do I work diligently within the time allotted to me? If I have 45 hours in a workweek am I maximizing that time to make sure every detail for the upcoming weekend or event is covered? Am I letting distractions or non-job elements creep in and prevent me from doing my job?
- Do I do the things I say I’m going to do when I say I’m going to do them? Do I have integrity and follow-through in my DNA as a youth worker? Dr. Henry Cloud in his book, Integrity (2006 Harper Collins) defines this as “having an integrated character.” This is one of the biggest reasons youth workers are seen as unprofessional.
- Do I leave people without excuse? Do I clean up completely after events? Do I communicate so clearly that no one can come back to me and claim they “never received that info?”
I’ve found that in my own career as a youth worker, when the answer has been ‘yes’ to the above questions, I enjoy the job I do even more.
Questions: How have you struggled as a “professional” youth worker? Why is it hard for youth workers to be “professional”? What are some small easy steps to becoming more professional? Who on your church staff models “professionalism” really well?
Mike Berry is the Student Ministry Director at Connection Pointe Christian Church in Brownsburg, Indiana. He’s been involved in Student Ministry for 16 years. He lives in the suburbs of Indianapolis with his wife Kristin and their 8 children. Follow him on his blog at www.repaintingthewalls.com.