Our profession has a problem. If you believe statistics (and 89 percent of you do), you’ll be searching for a job on Monster.com in about 36 months. I’ve joked with my friend Doug Fields that his book Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry will always be a bestseller.
This painful turnover needs to stop. It won’t be easy because many youth workers end up wounded soon after the honeymoon ends. We begin anticipating attacks (not teamwork) and jeers (not cheers). But despite all the challenges, you can stay strong for the long haul with these “lifer” tips:
• Hold some stuff sacred. To increase your chances of lasting in ministry, it’s essential to set boundaries on your time and life. Do you take a day off every week? A break might be difficult during an occasional week-before-summer-camp, but if you’re cheating too often, you won’t survive. Do you rest and exercise regularly? How’s your family life? Having a long view of ministry means putting family first. There’s a connection between your faithfulness to your spouse and your faithfulness to God. You have a problem if you’re constantly looking at your phone instead of at your own children (56 percent of you have them).
• Let some things go. Too often, youth workers want to fight over things that don’t really matter. We take a stand when we should sit down, and we speak up when we probably should shut up. If you fight for everything 100 percent of the time, you’ll be too wounded to endure. Over time, you’ll begin to understand what’s truly worth fighting for. Pause today to reflect on some things you might be grasping too tightly.
• Surround yourself with the right people. To build and maintain a long-term ministry, you’ll need the right people in your life. You’ll need: 1) a ministry cheerleader, 2) a ministry mentor, and 3) someone who doesn’t know you work at a church. Who’s cheering you on? Who’s in the stands watching you and yelling encouragement? (Eighty-eight percent of us have someone yelling at us…but it isn’t encouragement.) Who’s the wise sage nudging you on with practical wisdom? Who do you hang out with who cares nothing about your career? These people are sustaining and life-giving, and they’ll make a huge difference.
Live out of these truths and you’ll have a much greater chance of becoming a youth ministry lifer—not a statistic.
Originally appeared in the March/April issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!