Last night while giving my message to the 7th/8th grade students I noticed that they were extra talkative…who am I kidding they’re always talkative. It’s something that I can ignore, but for some reason it really got to me last night. I’m not saying the room was in chaos but there were definitely conversations going on during the band, during the activity and while I was speaking. There were times where I just wanted to stop talking and walk out of the room, go home and be with my family, but I continued on, with the words that I had written and just put another night in the books.
It stinks to feel like you “just did” another night of ministry. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that every night has to be a home run. We know it’s not going to be but we want it to be. It’s hard not to get jaded by these occurrences where students talk during the message, turn their backs during the music, text instead of share during small groups, I think it’s the small moments like these that build up into burnout. But we can’t stop, in fact we have to keep moving through it and to do that we need to:
- Remember God is Working – If we could identify every single way life change happens in a person’s life we would be Jesus Christ. But since we fall very short of that we have to accept the fact that even though we cannot see it, God is working in a students life. The worse thing we can do as a youth minister is stop when it gets hard because it eliminates an opportunity. Persistence is key when it comes to talking and doing life with students because it’ll carry us through the tough times.
- Engagement is Best in Relationships – Flood them with love. The best way to engage a student is one on one. Now having a ministry where the student ratio is one on one might be a little tough but that shouldn’t deter us from trying. But before I continue I know it’s hard for us to get ministers, but the with the ones we get we need to make sure that they aren’t there just to serve pizza and make sure the building doesn’t burn down…let them know their most important responsibility is engaging a student into a relationship with Christ. Create situations in your ministry where your leaders can engage in a relationship with a student, whether that’s having them sit next to the teens during your message or greeting them at the door when they arrive. Any type of authentic encounter will lead to engagement.
- Be Clear, Be Focused – With everything you do from games, to activities, to your message be clear. I’m tired of the debates on how long a message should be, how long an activity should run, etc. While length is important it really comes down to how clear you are about what you want them to know and what you want them to do. Also ask yourself when delivering a message, “Is this something I want to talk about or is this something God wants them to hear?” I’ll admit I’ve spoken out of my pride before, when I should be speaking to them about what God wants in their lives.
There are great tips to engaging students, wonderful ideas to making your ministry exciting, some can get a little costly, while others are pretty cheap, but regardless of what you try know it’s important not to give up. There are going to be nights where we question ourselves, “Why do we do what we do?” and the answer always lies with God. Even if you continue to struggle with engaging the students know that God is working and one thing I would encourage all youth ministers to do is to seek out other youth workers. Get together, pray together and share life because this is a journey we aren’t meant to do on our own. If you want to find those networks I would encourage you to check out some of the Other Sites I Run To on the side of this blog. Connect and encourage one another and know that each day is another step in the journey.