Youth workers are known for winning the right to be heard with students by engaging in their environment, meeting them in their territory, and understanding youth culture. This means that we know all of the words to the latest Justin Beiber song and sometimes that stretches to fashion, entertainment, and even lifestyle choices. The question that youth workers have battled with for decades is where do we draw the line of being relevant and still being professional. I’d suggest that a suit and tie everyday is unacceptable as well as a vocabulary of starting every sentence with “Dude…”
Below is a list of five tips to increase your professionalism in youth ministry. While this is only a few tips in a world that we could spend weeks addressing every detail, these are five areas that seem to be continuously addressed everywhere.
Dress/Attire The way you dress speaks volumes to your respect for your audience. So dress for them. If you are meeting with other youth workers, causal attire is perfect. But when you have staff meetings with elders, senior pastors, or whatever who have suit jackets and ties, you need to go for a more dressy look. As Paul says, “be all things to all people.”
Time Management This means a lot within youth ministry. Be it meeting with students, volunteers, parents, or supervisors, we need to not only understand that time is valuable, but it also is a display of your character. Show up on time, be ten minutes early, and work on an email if no one is there yet. Instead of having back to back to back meetings, put an hour buffer in-between so that you can go over if need be and won’t be late to the next meeting. For parents’ sake, end youth group when you say you will. Finally, honor God with your time. Six days of work and a Sabbath is the expectation, not the suggestion. Give God His portion of your time.
Levels of Leadership We serve the Church. Since it is our calling it is hard when a senior pastor or supervisor comes in with rules that seem to hinder that. But reacting with a lack of respect for that person does not help the situation. Do not talk behind their back, stop the gossip, and remove yourself if others are complaining for the sake of complaining. If something is bugging you, speak to them. Understand their context and know why they put out those rules. More than likely, they do not know that their rules are hindering your ministry and if it is less important, they are probably going to be willing to allow you to bend the rules or redefine it completely.
Learn To Delegate We were hired to do youth ministry, but that includes so many duties, including interacting with parents, developing leaders, and put together a great ministry. A pastor once said during the hiring process of a youth worker, “I don’t want you to do the work of ten people. I want you to find ten people to do all that work.” Develop a community of people to surround you to reach every last student, but do not do it alone. Ensure that these people are properly trained, utilizing their gifts, and honoring their successes as well as being their during failures.
Long Term Planning Youth workers love to do ministry within the moment and honestly, that is where students live. They are not thinking of what is going to happen a month from now because prom is next week. Who cares about that far away. But we need to realize that adults and parents in our ministry have busy lives. Work to plan at least three months in advance. If you haven’t already, you should have all of your summer activities planned and advertised with cost breakdowns. You’d be surprised at how this will improve your perception and relationship with others.
What other tips would you add to improve professionalism for youth workers?