ALWAYS BE TEACHABLE AND A CONTINUAL LEARNER
To be teachable not only means that you can be taught how to do ministry but it also, and more importantly, means that you are able to learn from your mistakes and from others’ advice. To not be teachable is to be arrogant and ultimately a sub-par youth worker.
How can you know if you are a teachable person? A teachable person welcomes input into their life and ministry (and then implements it), especially input that is tough to hear, but necessary. A teachable person longs for input that will in any way make them a better person and help them to have a healthy ministry. If you find that you are hyper-sensitive to input that goes against your ideas, or that you are less than positive about getting others’ input, you are not a teachable person.
As I stated above, making assumptions that you know how to “do” ministry can be your Achilles heel. The reality is that the moment you stop learning, you die. Having the mindset of a continual learner will help you to stay fresh and keep the people you work with fresh and excited about ministry and their faith. Knowing your church and community culture is vital. There are other things though that you need to always be learning about.
First and foremost it is important to be a continual learner in your faith. You are young. Don’t assume that what you believe in now is all that God has for you. You may find that as you pursue learning some of the theological beliefs that you held near and dear as you grew up or learned in bible college aren’t necessarily true or as concrete as you thought. Is Reformed Theology 100% true? What is your End Times beliefs? Young or old earth? NIV or ESV? These might seem unnecessary for youth ministry, but believe me, you will come across these and more as you forge ahead and want to know what YOU believe, not what others have told you to believe, especially if you are a teachable person.
Next, is to be a continual learner as far as how to communicate to young people. As you learn the style of communication and teaching that you feel most comfortable with, it is important that you not think that it is the final word. You will find that as you mature as a person and as a minister, how you communicate will also mature. The adage that I have always lived by when it comes to communicating and teaching is, “You are never as bad as you think and you are never as good as you think.”
Lastly, always be learning about how to best reach the students that God has called you to reach and minister to. Just because a camp, retreat, style of worship, room set-up, time of meeting or any program is working great, don’t assume that it will be that way in the future. Never adopt the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” mindset in ministry. Look around you. The most successful endeavors in society, especially with technology, happen because people are watching and learning how to best stay effective.
Not that you need to adopt the world’s way of doing things per se. But to assume that something will always work just because it has been working is ludacris. The needs of your youth group will change. They’d BETTER change! If you are pouring into your ministry as you should be, change will happen, in you and in others. Needs will change. Learn to discern when these changes are taking place and always be learning what you need to do to facilitate these changes.
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.