Tips for youth workers
- Make sure you have your days off! It sounds selfish and you will sometimes need to discern what is volunteering and what is work but you are allowed to say No. You need to look after yourself.
- Be organised with your time management, you might need to start liking admin! It will make life so much easier in the long run.
- Find a family you get on with. Sometimes your church will do this, but sometimes it’s up to you.
- Find a Spiritual mentor. Again your church may provide you with one, but often they don’t. It is good to talk to someone who isn’t your line manager to help you get perspective.
- Have time with your line manager. Communication is so important and keeps things transparent.
- When you start a new role, don’t worry about producing an amazing programme straight away, enjoy it and take it all in.
- Youth want authentic youth workers.
- Ask the youth what gaps are missing for them. Sometimes we can get peer pressure from parents or the congregation what we should be doing, so an amazing youth activity weekend or club may sound great but is it what they want? Is it where they are at? Is it sustainable?
- Have proper meal times! And not just pasta. My lifestyle as a single 22 year old has changed somewhat over the last 10 years but I realised at the start of my youth work days my eating habits were very bad. It consisted of fast food and pasta. I rarely had time to be in the kitchen making dinner and when I did, making dinner for 1 was a bit depressing. But I see the wisdom in eating healthy and properly at proper meal times. Batch cooking is a time saver and money saver. Batch cook a chilli or bolognese, put it in pots and freeze. Then you have your own ready meals close to hand when you don’t have much time. But when you aren’t in a rush, take time to make something fun and enjoy eating it.
- Go on retreats and keep going to training days. There will always be work, make time to recharge and learn.
- Meet up with other youth workers. We all get a bit lonely, so meeting up with other youth workers can be helpful and encouraging. Make sure it isn’t being negative about your church, but something where you can share resources and support each other.
- Youth ministry isn’t just about youth, make time for their families and the wider congregation. You will feel less isolated.
- Get a work phone or a way to communicate that doesn’t involve your personal phone, so on days off you can turn off.
- Bigger isn’t always better – Find your core youth. Jesus did work with larger numbers but mainly his 12 disciples/3 disciples. There is a pressure to always show success through numbers but it is about relationships. It is all about the relationships. If you have a youth in your mind that you think you need to ring, or meet up for a coffee then do it. Admin can wait.
- Pick your battles, sometimes you need to search yourself and ask if this is really such a big issue. Let things drop and don’t let divides cause you to drain your attention or emotional energy. I have a coaster with the word GRACE, and a screensaver with Breathe and this helps a lot!
- Have a verse that anchors you. You can sometimes lose sight of why you do what you do. What is your verse that spurs you on?
- Find a way to turn off. Swimming, cinema, running. Do something else.
- Try and make it to a church service, it is hard working for a church who don’t know who you are.
- Have a little notebook or journal (or your phone) where you can jot down ideas that pop into your head. I keep thinking I’ll remember it and I never do.
- Again it’s really obvious but so easy to let slip, but give yourself some quiet time and study time. Not for a youth study or sermon, but for your own soul and prayer life. It could be something as simple as listening to music, or listening to a podcast whilst walking somewhere, or it could be dedicated quiet time. Whatever it is, try and keep it, it may adapt and change as life goes on which is really natural and it can slip. Sometimes you work off spiritual fumes with your tank being empty but it’s hard to keep going when nothing is in the tank.
- Look after your volunteers. If you are lucky enough to have some then appreciate them and love them. We would do a meal for our volunteers once a month as a chance to say thank you.
40 Acts. Scripture Union, Willow Creek Community Church.
‘Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry’ by Doug Fields. (Should be read by everyone whatever stage of youth ministry they are at).
‘Contemplative Youth Ministry’ by Mark Yaconelli (teaches us how to BE and not just DO).
Kathryn Aboud, has been a youth leader at St James, Gerrards Cross since 2011.
‘I’ve been doing youth work in churches for 17 years now – I know, I look far too young! (many parents just walk past me!) 😛 but have always felt God wanting me to point our youth to Him, and help them in faith and in life, whatever form that takes. I am currently living in High Wycombe, and am married with 2 girls and trying to get back into shape but I love food too much!