In 1998, I was offered my first vocational position in youth ministry. I wound up serving at Community of Joy LB in Eagan MN for 8 years as their youth director while I continued my studies and went to Bethel Seminary and the Lutheran Brethren Seminary.
By the time I concluded my ministry there I was serving as a pastor in a full-time position, but early on I was a part-time staff, hired to work 20 hours a week. Now, I was hired for 20 hours a week but what I found myself doing was working 40-50 hours a week because I could.
And I think my logic at the time was, “This is sweet. I just got hired to do my dream job.”
And here’s what I did my first summer there: I slept in 23 different beds that summer. The church hired me during my senior year of college which meant that the dorm was my home until I graduated. Upon graduation, I secured an apartment with a few guys I knew beginning that September. But for the summer I had no place to call home so I asked a few families from church if I could stay with them each for a few weeks, mixed those homes in with a mission trip to Washington state, slept at our bible camp for a few more weeks and then sprinkled in a trip to New Jersey to see my family.
It was a great summer. I got to know tons of students. I had some great opportunities to get to know some of the families from church. I took a dozen students on a mission trip, another few groups to camp, a few Christian music festivals, some camping trips and stuff like that.
As a 21 year old youth worker I valued relationships and as a 41 year old I still value relationships but today it shows itself differently.
For me, telling this story was a fun way for me to write about some of the things that I value. In the role that I’m serving in now, overseeing a multi-campus youth ministry I get to lead a number of volunteer teams, and I have several staff that I have the privilege of working with. As we meet weekly I’ve been able to share some of the other things that I value.
When it comes to student ministry, I value the following:
- High value of God’s word – This should make a whole lot of sense because it’s one of our church family’s beliefs that we hold really high
- High value on God’s desire to be in relationship with us – In addition to a high value on God’s word, I love to share about God’s greatest gift to us, His Son Jesus at the cross and how God’s heart is to draw us into relationship with Him
I think the remainder of the things that I value is more second tier values, yet practically they matter very much. Please note, there is no hierarchy in these next eight ideas.
- Family based youth ministry – God created the family and while many students come from broken families and very dysfunctional families, the family (especially parents) I believe are our greatest allies in ministry to students.
- Excellence – Excellence is often in the eye of the beholder, yet doing this to our best aligns with scripture’s call to “do everything as working for the Lord.”
- Consistent Communication – I prefer to work ahead and to disseminate information as early as possible in order to create the widest reach by using as many forums as possible
- Modeling Integrity – Students, parents, leaders and even business owners that we partner with are all watching us each and every day. Is what they see what we talk about or is what they see in us something other?
- Steering Students to the church – My hope is to graduate students out of our youth ministry into the larger church because for most, they can’t stay in our youth ministry for the rest of their lives. They need to see that they belong to a great church body.
- Relational Youth Ministry – Knowing our students is an invaluable gift as we share the gospel with students.
- Creative Communication – As we open up God’s word with students, we have a significant opportunity to creatively get them to understand God’s word in a safe and age appropriate setting speaking into the issues and realities that they face.
- Balancing being a Good Steward while being Generous – We are entrusted with significant resources on behalf of our churches and using them well is a tall task.
If someone were to ask you what you value in ministry, what would you say?
Four years ago I created a survey related to the budgeting and compensation aspects related to youth workers. I want to revisit that survey for the benefit of any new youth workers and to see if anything has changed.
I invite you to go to www.surveymonkey.com/r/WDPMKHV
Upon their completion we will publish a summarized report. Please complete this by 11/31.
For me, I’m currently reading “Growing Young” by Griffin, Mulder and Powell and as I thought about it and the blog post, I was reminded that quite often how churches allocate funds speaks to what they value. And while naming that, I realize that each church has its own set of resources so comparing one church against another is not fair. I think a more fair approach would be to evaluate each church’s allocation of resources independently within how they use staff, space and finances. I hope this survey will offer some feedback regarding churches and their finances.
Sidebar Lesson: As I revisit my original story I see several sidebar lessons. One is related to working more hours than you’re paid for. Over the years I’ve come to see how it might be a great blessing to your students and your parents that you overwork yourself BUT I want to name a few reasons to reconsider that pattern:
- You have the potential to have less time for yourself and your own personal life.
- Your church might find it difficult to bump your hours up because they wonder what they should expect from you in those gained hours.
- If someone were to serve following your season at that church, you have created unrealistic expectations for them.
By Rev. Mark Johannesen