Teens look. They watch. They verify!
Teens want a youth minister who:
1. Is available when I have needs. “I don’t have time right now” is translated into “You are not important” by teenagers. Sometimes teens want to talk. Sometimes they just want to hang out. One way to be available is to set certain hours you’ll be at the office during the week for teens to stop by. Another way to be available is to tell the group to call your answering machine at home and that you will return calls as soon as you get their messages.
2. Has Jesus as the focal point of their life. Here’s a quote to hang onto: “What you do reveals what you believe about God regardless of what you say” (from Experiencing God). Rate yourself, with #1 as “no focus,” and #10 as “totally focused” on Jesus. Place your rating in this blank. _____
Let’s be honest. Your group doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be authentic. And a genuine life dedicated to Christ will do more to mold the life of a young person than all youth conventions and lock-ins combined.
3. Is a great listener. When people have problems they often want an ear that listens, and not a lot of advice. Teens can work most of their difficulties out by talking about them. So don’t just hear their words, listen with all of you by using these methods:
• Maintain eye contact.
• Nod (but don’t nod-off) to show you understand where he or she is coming from.
• Keep your body loose. Folding your arms, or any other rigid position makes you look uninterested.
4. Has a sense of humor. Warning! This doesn’t mean you have to try to be funny if you’re not, just be fun to be around. Be able to laugh and cut up. Have the ability to smile when you can’t pronounce a genealogy from Genesis. Most people are not stand up comics, but don’t worry, you don’t have to be one. Use your natural ability and the type of humor that God gave you.
5. Is sympathetic and empathetic. Basically, sympathy means you feel for someone. Empathy means you feel with someone. Either way it translates into, “I’m here for you.” Use your life experiences to empathize. Use your heart experiences to sympathize.
6. Is concerned about their salvation. Use questions like, “How’s your walk with God?” “What can I be praying about for you?” “Would you like to get together some time, get in the Word, and see how well you’re growing in Christ?”
7. Is competent. No offense to a good friend of mine, but leaving the matches, plates, and buns for the wiener roast did not endear him to the group. Running out of gas on the way to the retreat didn’t go over too well either. And forgetting a teen’s name will never help him rank high on the competence level.
Ministry is a job that requires responsibility. Occasional mishaps are acceptable, but regular mistakes caused by lack of thinking are rarely soon forgotten.
8. Is firm, but not overbearing. No teen wants a drill sergeant for a youth minister. Be flexible enough to know when to let things slide, and when to crack the whip a bit.
Hebrews 12 talks about the discipline of the Lord. Follow His example. He knows how to correct our sin without forcing us out of the kingdom. He knows when we need a gentle tug on the heart, or the rebuke of a friend. Be firm, without being rigid. Be strong, without being stiff. Be like Jesus.
“I want to know that my youth minister cares for me,
and will be there for me no matter what.”
– Amy, age 14
9. Is willing to try new ideas. Does this year’s activities on the calendar look like a repeat of last year’s? You may not feel like coming up with a list of new stuff, so let the teens do it. Take a survey of your group and have each person put down three things they would like your group to do that it has never done before. You will have plenty of options. From the expensive “Take a mission trip to Hawaii,” to the wild “Host a wrestle mania,” to the encouraging “Let’s invite some needy families to our youth room for Christmas lunch.”
10. Expects and demands that teens succeed. Create a spirit of excellence in your group. Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed do all to the glory of God…” Expect your teens to study, present devotionals, participate in class, etc. as if they were doing it directly for God.
Most people write young people off and think they are lazy and don’t want to do anything. But the truth is they are willing to work as hard as anyone as long as they know it will be appreciated, and as long as they know you expect and demand the best they can offer.