In about 10 days, I’ll be heading out west to Louisville, KY for the 2012 Simply Youth Ministry Conference. As mentioned a few days ago, I’m really looking forward to this experience (that’s why I’m writing about it again). I’m going to reconnect with people I’ve known over the years, others I’ve met recently via Twitter. I’m bringing some of my team and a local youth worker who has never been. I can’t wait to show them the large network of youth ministry that’s looking to pour into them and build them up.
When I first started in youth ministry I had a really difficult time connecting with other youth workers. It felt like being the new kid at school and not knowing where to sit during lunch. I had not received any formal education at a seminary, and while I did attend a Catholic university my intentions weren’t to major in ministry. My connections were through coworkers and while helpful they didn’t go deep at first. Lets just say that first year was a challenge because I lacked:
CAMARADERIE and ACCOUNTABILITY.
I can’t remember when my connections began to grow, it feels like after I met one youth worker, I met a second, third and now it won’t stop (that’s good). Today with the help of social media I can’t tell you how many youth ministers I connect with on a daily basis. And while that number is large of ministers I connect with is quite large, if it weren’t for a few veteran and new youth workers I don’t know how I would keep going.
The relationships we build with other youth workers, matters a lot more than we are sometimes willing to acknowledge. I come across way to many former youth workers who burned out because somewhere down the line they didn’t receive the support or encouragement that they needed to overcome something difficult.
The obstacles we face as youth workers are numerous. They aren’t all so different from other job fields; however, they can isolate us. Some of those problems deal with:
- Supporting Our Families Financially
- Confessing Our Sins Publicly
- Overcoming Our Fears Of Failure
- Admitting We Don’t Know
- And The List Goes On…
But, like I said these problems aren’t unique to youth ministry; yet, where we learn to face them isn’t always found in a work shop. It’s found in the local networking, where relationships can truly grow.
So, if you are new to ministry take some time to reach out to the veterans in your area. Places to meet other youth workers are at conferences, interdenominational gatherings or just plain old Googling. While you need a mentor to pour into you, you can also bring a fresh perspective that can challenge a veteran to grow.
And, if you are a veteran, reach out to the church down the road, take the new guy out and just listen to their story. It’s not about duplicating your ministry, but pouring out the blessings God has poured into you over the years. It’s about empowering and making sure that the new person doesn’t feel alone.
The best part of a long race is when you hear the voices of people cheering you to pick it up and complete the race. Just when you are out of gas, hitting a wall and doubting your ability to see the end, you hear that voice saying, “You can do it…you are almost there.”
How do you authentically connect and network with other ministers?