I am a “maximizer”! That’s what I learned about myself a few years ago when I took the Clifton Strengthsfinder assessment for the first time. To give you a bit of context, here is some of the description from the Clifton Strengths Finder about how a maximizer thinks and functions:
“Excellence, not average, is your measure. Taking something from below average to slightly above average takes a great deal of effort and in your opinion is not very rewarding. Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling.”
With that as a backdrop, it is easy to imagine that I value growth in the vocation of youth ministry. I began with little background and experience in youth ministry, but after,20+ years, here are some of the things that have been most helpful and meaningful to me in that journey.
1. NEVER “ARRIVE”
I have now been working to become a professional youth worker for over 20 years. Have I come a long way? Absolutely! Do I have a long way to go? Absolutely! I think that mentality of never having “arrived” for “made it” or “figured it out” is an important stance to have when it comes to ministry.
First and foremost because when we “figure it out” we can then rely on our own strength and understanding and therefore run the risk of creating a ministry that leaves God through the Holy Spirit out of the mix because, well… we got this. Secondly, having the “I’ve arrived” mentality assumes that the world around us is not changing and that the way I function in ministry will never need to change. And the reality is that the culture in which we are called to minister is changing at an incredibly rapid rate, so much so that by the time we “arrive” it is time to move somewhere else. A third aspect to never arriving is to know that you must always be willing to learn as a youth worker. There are always persons in the world with more knowledge and know how than you. So take advantage of training seminars and youth worker conventions to keep reaching for that growing edge. So in order to grow as a professional youth worker it is imperative that we recognize that God is always growing us if we are willing to follow Him.
2. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
I was fortunate when I began in my first full time ministry position to be approached by two other youth leaders in my city that wanted to get to know one another. I just thought it sounded like it would be a possibility to meet a couple of new friends. Little did I know that my connection with those two youth workers would be one of the most valuable tools in my ministry toolbox for the first 10 years of youth ministry.
We began to get together on a regular basis, just to catch up on where ministry was leading us, to pray for one another, to vent to one another, to share ideas together, and just to have fun together. I grew so much in my ministry because of the honest conversations about the good, the bad, and the ugly of youth ministry with these two trusted friends. As I mentioned earlier, youth ministry is different and sometimes it is incredibly beneficial to have someone else in the tribe to walk alongside for the journey.
3. GET A LIFE
Ministry in general can become all consuming if you allow it. Youth ministry is no different. With that in mind, setting boundaries to keep ministry from taking over your life is a necessity to being the best you that you can be. In addition to setting boundaries, something that I have found helpful is to have a life outside of youth ministry. In general, individuals in our culture find too large an amount of their identity wrapped up in their vocation. Think about it, when you ask most adults to tell you about themselves one of the first two or three qualities that share is what their vocation is.
Youth ministry is not a 9-5 job where you clock in, do your 8 hours, then clock out and leave it behind until you clock back in the next day. There are often days and nights where youth ministry consumes much more time than you would like. Finding life outside of ministry is an essential way to help keep ministry from being all consuming. Whether that is finding a hobby to focus your time on, or keeping a day off or two each week, or blocking out a “Family night” to dedicate to your family having some time away from ministry can help keep ministry from becoming your entire life. If you feel that ministry is already consuming your life, stop reading this blog and begin to make a list of what your life consists of outside of ministry. If there isn’t much life outside of ministry, make a plan to create one beginning now.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Whether you initiate some of these practices, or find different options that work for you, my hope and prayer is that you continue to grow in your ministry and that God is glorified through that ministry.