BE A TEAM PLAYER
I believe that one of the big reasons that youth workers come and go so quickly in churches is that they are not team players. Too many, for reasons of insecurity, pride or both, come into a ministry convinced of how they want to “do ministry” and after a year or two wonder why they keep butting heads with either students, parents, church leadership or all of the afore mentioned. Chances are that if you end up having conflict on a somewhat regular basis with any one of these parties, the problem is you.
To me, being a team player in youth ministry means being committed to the vision of your church’s overall youth ministry and ultimately the vision of the church you are working at. As a good team player, you need to know your role and how that role fits into the overall vision of your ministry and church.
This means that you need to be a student of your church. You need to be a learner. I will talk more about this later. But for now, one of the best things you can do, especially for the first year or so, is to learn all you can about your church. Where has it come from? What are some of the significant events that have shaped the church culture and youth ministry? What is your church’s vision for the future and how do they plan on seeing it fulfilled? How do they expect the youth ministry to fit into that vision? Make sure you go to different leaders and members of your church for this information.
Every church has its unique culture and getting to know that culture takes time. Lots of time. It’s just plain crazy to think that you can execute your plans for your ministry and hope they will succeed if you don’t understand the culture in which they will be executed. What works wonderfully at one church may totally flop at another often times because of the different church cultures. If you don’t take the time to get to know your church’s culture, you will most likely end up not being a team player and find yourself constantly bumping into problems.
You need to also work at being a team player with other churches and youth ministry organizations. Never assume that your ministry, however established it is or becomes has all the answers. Your ministry will have a specific role in your community. Because you are going to want to have a ministry that has an impact on your community, you need to know who the other players are in your community. Who else is ministering in your community and what does their role seem to be?
This is not a very popular thing to do in most youth ministry circles. By default, most churches, and especially youth ministries, become very ingrown and focused only on what their calling is in their community. This makes sense because running a ministry takes a lot of work. But this still gives you no excuse to not engage with other youth ministry colleagues in order to better reach your community.
Rob McIlvoy is a 30-year youth ministry veteran who has worked in churches, Young Life and internationally. He initially wrote this for his 23-year old son who had just landed his first full-time youth ministry position. He was hoping to impart words of advice as he began his own calling.