Youth Ministry is tough, and can often be really lonely. As youth leaders, we face challenges that are unique and different. It’s all too easy to feel alone and powerless, and that’s exactly where the enemy wants you to be. I’ve been serving in youth ministry for over 13 years now, and I can’t tell you the amount of times that I’ve sat in my car after an event and asked the question “What am I doing?”
It’s easy to wonder if you’re really making a difference after a middle school lock in. The weeks after youth camp are prime time for a season of depression to set in, and we all know that conversations with angry parents can drain the joy right out of you.
So what do you do to stay in youth ministry and stay healthy for the long haul? I believe the key is to have the right types of people around you. From my experience, there are five types of people that every youth leaders needs to have around them. When you have these people in your inner circle, the tough times of youth ministry are just speed bumps.
When these people are missing, tough times can easily become multi-car pile-ups that either damage or kill your ministry. Simply put, every youth leader needs these people around them if they want to have a healthy ministry that impacts the next generation. So let’s take a look at the five types of people you need around you and how they can help take your leadership next level.
1) PEOPLE WHO PRAY WITH YOU
Every youth leader needs people around them who will pray with them. Without people who pray for you and with you regularly, you don’t stand a chance. Ministry will get tough. That’s a given. The difference in youth leaders who make it and the ones that don’t is often prayer.
Who is standing in the gap for you spiritually? Who do you have around you who intercedes for you on a daily basis? Who in your inner circle is lifting you up in prayer when you feel beaten down and unqualified? People who pray with you are essential to leading well, so who’s praying for you today?
2) PEOPLE WHO PUSH YOU
Great leaders need people to push them. Every great leader I’ve met has someone behind them who is pushing them to greatness. This is a person who reminds you that you CAN when you buy into the lie that you can’t. This is a person who believes in you and loves you too much to let you get by with less than what you are capable of. It’s the type of person I think the author of Hebrews had in mind when they wrote that we should “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
The truth is we won’t always like these people when they push us, but they love us too much to let that stop them. Who is walking with you and for you that pushes you toward your best? Who in your inner circle calls out the greatness inside of you? We all need people to push us as leaders, so who is pushing you?
3) PEOPLE WHO PRAISE YOU
The fact that the people who push us can push so hard is one of the reasons we need people to praise us. If you’re like me, this one may feel a little awkward. I don’t like to talk about people praising me. It feels almost prideful. However, I know that I desperately need people to encourage me. This is the praise I’m talking about. My top love language is words of encouragement, so this is huge for me. The truth is it’s huge for all youth leaders!
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul writes: “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” We need people to encourage us. It’s part of God’s design! I think those of us in youth ministry need a little more of it than other people! Dealing with angry parents is just part of youth ministry, but it can really tear you down. Students will often say hurtful things without thinking. Other volunteers and leaders can get extremely critical at times. All of these things tear us down, so we need to people to encourage us by giving us praise when everyone else tears us down.
Who is in your corner and always encourages you? Who affirms you when you’re down? Who always has a way of making you feel a little better when they walk into the room? Every youth leader needs someone in their life to praise them.
4) PEOPLE WHO PARTNER WITH YOU
No matter how talented you are, you can’t do ministry alone. Leaders who try don’t stay in ministry very long. Either that or their ministry never grows. The larger youth ministry gets and the more students you reach, the more people you will need to partner with you.
These are practical people who will roll up their sleeves and work with you. They don’t have to be asked to do something because they see what is needed before you ask and jump in to help. They are your co laborers.
We all need people to partner with us. Heck, even Paul knew this. Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament and is the father of church planting, yet he almost always traveled and ministered with partners! Think about people like Timothy, Titus, Barnabas, John Mark, Priscilla and Aquila, and Luke. Paul knew that he needed partners in ministry to finish strong, and we do to. Who are the people in your life and ministry who partner with you?
5) PEOPLE WHO PROP YOU UP
Last of all, every youth leader needs people to prop them up. This is more than encouragement. These people are rocks in your life and ministry. When life feels like it’s falling apart and you don’t think you can go any farther, these are the people who are present and prop you up. When you can’t stand on your own they hold you up.
These people are with you no matter what, and at some point, we will all need someone to prop us up. Who are these people in your life? When you face trouble and heartache, who is right there with you to lend support?
Who are the people filling these roles in your life? Are one of these people missing from your inner circle? If so, begin to pray and ask God to show you the right people. Perhaps nothing will make a greater difference in you ministry than the people you choose to do ministry alongside of.