Here are 6 lessons I have learnt in my 6 years of working in the youth ministry.
Control your passion
I’m a very passionate young man. When I first started working with young people, the passion was there for all to see but all too often, it got out of control. Soon I was labelled as a harsh, condemning and judgemental leader. I was surprised and thought my work and efforts were not appreciated. It took a number of years for me to understand why some of the youths felt this way about me. My passion was very good but my approach was very bad. I was very harsh and unconsciously attacked people for making mistakes. Today, I’m still very passionate but more calculated in my approach.
Not everyone shares your level of passion
It is fair to say that we don’t share the same level of passion for every ministry in the church. Similarly, I have come to understand that not everyone is passionate about the youth ministry. I used to get angry and very frustrated, almost to the point of tears when people take a lackadaisical approach to things involving the youth. I wished everyone would share the same burden I have for the youth ministry. It was later on that I learnt that everyone has a different calling and hence different areas of interests.
You can’t force people to make the right choices, you can only advise them
This was probably what led some youths to dislike me. Decisions determine your destiny. Your decisions today will determine your results tomorrow. There were some young people who were blatantly going down the wrong path and I always did my best to steer them towards the right path. When they resisted my help, I rebuked them harshly. This was because I knew they were putting themselves in danger and didn’t want them to destroy their lives. I have come to realise that you can only signpost people the right way but you can’t force them to follow the right way. Despite my best efforts, some still left the church and went back to their previous lifestyle.
Humility is key
I have learnt to say sorry when I am in the wrong and I make myself available to be corrected by both young and old. I have an open door policy where anyone can come and address any issues with me especially when I offend them. Potentially, the down side of this approach is that some people become familiar when you go down to their level. However, the benefits are massive such as people pointing out my weaknesses so that I can work on them. Moreover, it allows young people to feel comfortable to share their issues with me in confidentiality. This is something I value highly.
Love your youths
Every leader ought to love the people he/she is leading. I mentioned in lesson one that I was seen as judgemental but one of the things that allowed the young people to be tolerant was that they knew that I love them and have their best interest at heart. You can’t excel in a role you don’t love and you can’t effectively lead people you don’t love.
Love means seeking the best interests of the youths and putting them ahead of my personal interest. It means investing in their lives even with my personal finances, staying up late nights sometimes to help with assignments and personal statements. My youths know that I expect them to go further in life than I ever do. I tell them this at every opportunity in order to push them to be the best God has called them to be.
Love also means setting days aside to fast and pray for their welfare. Love means forgiving people when they offend me and still treat them like nothing ever happened and mean it. When I get tired and feel like giving up, love is what keeps me going because love perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7).
You have to be led by the Holy Spirit
This is the most important point and perfectly summarises all the points above. The Holy Spirit empowers me to control my passion, be understanding, remain humble and love the youths God has put me in charge of.
When you allow the Spirit of God to direct your path, you avoid many mistakes and you’ll always know what to do in every situation. The Holy Spirit prompts me to intercede and check up on particular individuals, and also directs me to put on the right programmes that meet everyone’s needs.
Obeying the Holy Spirit can also mean going against the wishes of others but God will always justify you when your obedience is complete. Don’t always seek for people’s approval especially when it doesn’t tally with what God is telling you. God is big enough to vindicate you.
Please share with every leader involved with the youth ministry