Where can I find help? It may be the No. 1 question I have been asked over the past 10 or so years. Pastors from small churches who are looking for someone—anyone—to come and help them begin a student ministry ask it. Personnel committees who are looking to fill a youth ministry position ask it. Full-time youth ministers who are looking for volunteers ask it.
Sometimes I think if I could just figure out how to develop a youth leader/worker in a box, where all you had to do was open the package and add water and a vibrant youth worker would emerge, then I could retire a wealthy man. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy.
My heart hurts for these churches and ministries, and as I have wrestled with an answer to this question, I seem to have found at least a modicum of an answer.
Pray. I know that this seems to be the go-to answer with any concern we have and at times it may seem pass�, but I am convinced now more than ever that this is the place we need to start.
Jesus tells us specifically to pray for workers. Matthew 9:37-38: “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'”
Have we prayed, honestly prayed, diligently prayed, continuously prayed, for workers? Or, have we just flippantly asked God for help? The world our students live in is vastly different from the world anyone over age 35 grew up in. As a society, we have prolonged adolescences, made everything tolerable, and it has had long-term impact on our society. Praying for workers in this harvest field ought to be at the top of our priority list.
Look Around: With whom in your congregation/community are the students already in a relationship? Who do they talk to, go to for advice? Who is the Kool-aid mom in your congregation? What adult do they seek out? It may better serve your need to pour into the life of and disciple a volunteer or a group of volunteers to be the leaders you need, than to spend a lot of time trying to find just the right fit.
In this culture of teens I have become more and more convinced that we need to pay attention to the “who” they already have built relationships with. I tell adults all the time if for some reason a student has decided that you are important to them and want to spend time with you, value your opinion and talk to you on a regular basis, that truly is a gift from God and they are your assignment from God. Teens today are fickle at best with whom they trust and confide in. Why not take advantage of those relationships.
One of the caveats of this is that these adults, along with any adult we put in front of our students, need to be adults that are growing in the faith and modeling the lifestyle which we want our students to emulate. Students have enough people in their lives who want to be their buddy, we need adults who want to be adults and help disciple students into fully devoted followers of God.
ASK: other youth ministries in your area to “borrow” some of their volunteers or volunteer to be a training ground for some of their students that have been called to ministry. You get the advantage of volunteers with a solid base and a built-in mentor. It also helps students and churches see that we are all in this together and that youth ministry is best done within the context of a healthy network of youth ministers.
Joe Ball is a student ministry consultant, with Crossings Ministries.