One of the most difficult obstacles I had when I started out in youth ministry was overcoming the feeling of being patronized by parents and adult volunteers. Some of my feelings were due to a bruised ego because I thought I knew it all. But, the rest of my feelings were legitimate because people did not see me as a professional. They saw me as a youth minister; however, they didn’t see the professionalism in this industry.
What needed to change? Simple, how I was presenting myself. While there will always be people who will talk down to and treat those younger than them with inferiority, there are a few steps you can take to be seen as a professional. They might be hard to embrace because of youth ministry’s push to be relational. And relational can still be professional, in fact it should be. In order to improve the ways you are treated, embrace these four steps:
- Dress Appropriately: This means two things. First, it means dressing for your audiences. Make sure how you are dressed makes your company feel comfortable. How would a student feel if you were always wearing a shirt and tie? How would parents feel if all they saw you in was shorts, ball cap and t-shirt? Secondly, it means making sure what you wear is clean, ironed, and appropriate. It’s not about having the latest fashions or dressing to impress. When you dress well you show others that you are organized, ready and focused.
- Prepare For Meetings: Whether it’s a meeting for volunteers, parents or coworkers make sure you prepare and follow an agenda so that it’s worth their time. If you are hosting the meeting start and end on time. If you are attending a meeting make sure you are not late. Lastly, be sure your materials are in order and that your not constantly checking your phone.
- Communicate Professionally: Once you are out of college it’s time to put the fancy fonts, funky email address and clever voicemail greetings away. Make your emails clear and scannable. Respond to your voicemails promptly. Have someone edit your letters. And if giving a message or speech practice, practice and practice. When you can communicate clearly, people will respond well.
- Be Fiscally Responsible: When you are responsible with your budget it shows church members that you care about their investment in God’s kingdom. That means researching the resources you purchase and knowing when to make sacrifices. If you take care of what has been given to you, you will be blessed. People will trust you and God will reward your stewardship.
The push back for some is that youth ministry needs to have a “Come As You Are” type of attitude. If you come off careless, disheveled and haphazard who is going to trust you with their teens? A certain level of professionalism will improve the relationships you have with the people that invest in your ministry and make it happen. Let them know that you can be trusted.
How else can we be more professional in youth ministry? Do you think I’m being too harsh?