Escape From the Private Island of Youth Ministry

November 30, 2015     Keith Parker    

youth ministry lonely private island

This is a GUEST POST from Jonathan Robinson.

The life of youth minister can be a lonely place. Sounds silly right? You’re around people all the time yet, somehow you feel like you’re on an island. At least this has been the case for me before in ministry. Yet, over my years in ministry I’ve discovered something that has not only been enjoyable, but has invigorated my life and ministry.

I started off in ministry around 2001 as a volunteer and became a youth pastor on a staff in 2006. Let me tell you, those first years as “the youth guy” at a small church with 3 staff members were some crazy times. I had been a volunteer prior, but I had no experience being “the guy”. I had been to Bible College where I learned a lot. It was very beneficial from a biblical knowledge standpoint, but if I was completely honest, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was 23, green, and made a lot of mistakes.

After a while, it got really lonely and I didn’t have many answers. Don’t worry, though,  I was plenty arrogant about what I KNEW (i thought) I was doing so I didn’t need any help. I was invited one day in 2010 to to meet with a couple youth pastors and talk about some topics that we were facing with students in Tampa. They had a free lunch… so I was in. I didn’t view that meeting as the catalyst that it could have been, but that was the start of seeing that other youth pastors got together and talked about real stuff. To my detriment, I didn’t see the value in being a part of a network until 2012 and fully in 2014. BUT, here are 3 reasons why I know every youth pastor should be involved in a network of other Youth Pastors.

Networking helps you be spiritually and relationally healthy
I never really thought I needed a network. Honestly, when I first started as a youth pastor, things were fine. I did my job (and a lot more) and grew our ministry from 3 to 30. I thought I was hot stuff, and then the crap hit the fan. I started dealing with volunteer issues, student issues I had no clue how to deal with, and then there were the issues with my pastor I wasn’t ready for. This left me alone and searching for answers; answers that I couldn’t find in my small network of friends. So things lingered, I internalized and took frustrations out on other relationships including my wife. I didn’t have a context to process or connect with.

Fast forward 8 years and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been able to connect with other youth pastors, and primarily with a network of youth pastors that has been so beneficial to my life and ministry (links for National Youth Pastor Networks at the bottom). One of my favorite coaches, Bo Boshers, says this: “Healthy Youth Pastors have healthy youth ministries, and unhealthy Youth Pastors have unhealthy youth ministries, ” and I couldn’t agree more. How we live our lives – both on and off the field of ministry  – needs to be a priority, and one that unfortunately I didn’t think much of. But think about it, who greater to spur you on than someone who is dealing with the same things you are? Who better is there for you to share your burdens and victories with than a friend who has walked in your shoes? Being a part of a network has made me a healthier youth pastor and I see that truly affecting the student ministry I lead.

Networks help you keep focused and accountable
If you’re anything like me, your schedule can get busy with the most random things in a millisecond. This has adversely affected my ministry in ways to where I’ll either be rushing to finish my sermon on Wednesday night or I won’t have everything i need lined up for my leaders or I’ll forget something or I’ll add more to my plate than I can handle. These are all realities I’ve faced and I’m sure you have too, but what if you had someone to keep you accountable? Someone to help you stay focused?

My peer coaches in my network have been that for me. Not only from a time standpoint, but also from the standpoint of making sure I major on the majors and minor on the minors. I have made some significant changes in how I approach ministry over the past year and a half because of conversations in my network. I have spent more intentional time with students than I have in the 2 years prior. Let me just tell you how personally gratifying that is. My family has also benefited from me being in a network, as I’ve been held accountable for time spent with them by my coaches and peers.

Networking keeps you humble
I can be a really big idiot sometimes. The reason this is true is because I deal with pride a lot, and mostly in the realm of biblical and theological issues. I’ve passed my cage stage as a Calvinist, but I still have to check myself with arrogance and pride often. One of the coolest things about being in a network has been that my coaches and peer mentors, whom I love, don’t hold to the same theological leanings as I do. Yet, I have learned so much, been so cared for, listened to and respected by them that I couldn’t ask for greater friends in ministry than them.

Networking with other youth pastors in your area or across the country can keep you humble, because there is great wisdom, love, compassion, and great insight that comes from our peers who are fighting the good fight in the same trench as you and me. I’ve learned that God uses all kinds to reach all types with the same message, only the methods look different. If you’re a part of a local youth ministry network, that’s awesome, but I would also encourage you to get involved with a National Network that may allow you to have a greater level of transparency and honesty.

I’d love to hear how has being involved in a Network of Youth Pastors been good for you.

Get involved in an intentional Youth Pastor Network
lead222.com LEAD222 is a non-for-profit international coaching and mentoring ministry. LEAD222 is founded on the biblical mandate of 2 Timothy 2:2, which is to disciple reliable leaders who will teach others. We are dedicated to building a community of student ministry leaders that sharpen one another in personal character (inside game) and professional skills (outside game) to reach a generation to become followers of Christ. Utilizing a variety of resources, programs and training events we offer experienced leadership and best practices to serve youth leaders and spouses, parents, students, staff, and volunteers.

youthworkers.net The National Network of Youth Ministries links youth workers for encouragement, spiritual growth, and sharing resources, in order to expose every teenager to the gospel of Jesus Christ, establish those who respond in a local church, and disciple them to help reach the world.

YouthMin.org’s Facebook Group – this is an awesome, growing online community of Youth Ministers and Youth workers where you can be encouraged and equipped.  Check it out!

There is also a list of other networks that exist in multiple areas of the country. HERE

Jonathan Robinson is the Student Pastor at Stetson Baptist Church in Deland, Florida.

Categories: blog, Grow

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