5 Keys to Being Professional in Youth Ministry

February 21, 2012     Jeremy Smith    

Professional Youth PastorYouth 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.

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

Categories: General
Comments

0 thoughts on “5 Keys to Being Professional in Youth Ministry”

  1. Nick Farr

    Jeremy,
    This is a great post man! Once I transitioned out of student ministry, I was not prepared for how former the world was. I was used to wearing jeans, t-shirts, and flip-flops everywhere. Needless to say…I had to buy some clothes. On the flip side, I think that if I started to give the rest of my interactions outside of students the same attention I do to students, my perception would have been better. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Jeremy Smith

      You are welcome! I am glad they are of use. I know that we see the jeans and cell phones as “being in the youth culture” which is great. We just need to remember that there is a wider audience of parents, elders, and volunteers that are also apart of that ministry. We don’t have to go emo to reach those teens nor dress in the latest sports apparel to reach the jocks.

      I hope that transition, while transformative for you, went somewhat smoothly. It is always discouraging to hear that former paid youth workers having a negative reflection on youth ministry because of professionalism issues.

  2. Nick Farr

    Jeremy,
    This is a great post man! Once I transitioned out of student ministry, I was not prepared for how former the world was. I was used to wearing jeans, t-shirts, and flip-flops everywhere. Needless to say…I had to buy some clothes. On the flip side, I think that if I started to give the rest of my interactions outside of students the same attention I do to students, my perception would have been better. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Jeremy Smith

      You are welcome! I am glad they are of use. I know that we see the jeans and cell phones as “being in the youth culture” which is great. We just need to remember that there is a wider audience of parents, elders, and volunteers that are also apart of that ministry. We don’t have to go emo to reach those teens nor dress in the latest sports apparel to reach the jocks.

      I hope that transition, while transformative for you, went somewhat smoothly. It is always discouraging to hear that former paid youth workers having a negative reflection on youth ministry because of professionalism issues.

  3. JP

    do your thing. Yep I sat in staff meeting today in windsuit pants and a jordan jacket with my airmax on. I’ll preach tomorrow in jeans, airmax and a t shirt. I’m on stage on sunday’s and wear jeans (usually, sometimes slacks) polo shirts and steve madden’s or cowboy boots. I do shave regularly, unless i have a beard at the time. When I preach on in “big church” I wear jeans and a polo or polo sweatervest lol. When It’s summer I’ll work in shorts and t shirts and preach and go to meetings in them. I’ll always be myself. I’ll spiff up on sunday still. I also preach in a hat most weeks. Just keep it real, don’t look like you just woke up.

    1. Austin

      Lol. Idk if you catch the irony of your twitter quote being “that mostly just proves that the 90’s were ur hayday and u can’t advance lol.” and your comment here being that you wore windsuit pants and a jordan jacket. well played.

      but humor aside, i think the point of #1 is to dress according to the culture that leadership has established. I work at one of the biggest churches in our state JP, and I DEFINITELY don’t wear a suit. In fact, last time I did wear a suit, it was because one of my student’s brother’s funeral was that day, and I had meetings right after. One of our young adult pastors made the comment of, “Never ask anyone in our offices why they’re wearing a suit. it’s never a fun answer.”

      That being said, we’ve been asked not to wear jeans with a lot of holes, or shorts every day, and a few things like that. so, since it’s a request from leadership, my role is to submit under that. My normal attire when I don’t have any meetings with leadership or parents is chucks, jeans, and a t-shirt and a zip up hoodie. That’s my standard go to. I’ll wear a button down pearl snap or something for youth services, and chino’s for meetings, but i definitely don’t do a tie.

      i think the heart behind it is more like you said, shave regularly unless you’re bearded, don’t look like you just woke up, that kind of thing. Submit to leadership and don’t try and be anti-church culture just for the sake of rebellion.

      great post jeremy!

  4. JP

    do your thing. Yep I sat in staff meeting today in windsuit pants and a jordan jacket with my airmax on. I’ll preach tomorrow in jeans, airmax and a t shirt. I’m on stage on sunday’s and wear jeans (usually, sometimes slacks) polo shirts and steve madden’s or cowboy boots. I do shave regularly, unless i have a beard at the time. When I preach on in “big church” I wear jeans and a polo or polo sweatervest lol. When It’s summer I’ll work in shorts and t shirts and preach and go to meetings in them. I’ll always be myself. I’ll spiff up on sunday still. I also preach in a hat most weeks. Just keep it real, don’t look like you just woke up.

    1. Austin

      Lol. Idk if you catch the irony of your twitter quote being “that mostly just proves that the 90’s were ur hayday and u can’t advance lol.” and your comment here being that you wore windsuit pants and a jordan jacket. well played.

      but humor aside, i think the point of #1 is to dress according to the culture that leadership has established. I work at one of the biggest churches in our state JP, and I DEFINITELY don’t wear a suit. In fact, last time I did wear a suit, it was because one of my student’s brother’s funeral was that day, and I had meetings right after. One of our young adult pastors made the comment of, “Never ask anyone in our offices why they’re wearing a suit. it’s never a fun answer.”

      That being said, we’ve been asked not to wear jeans with a lot of holes, or shorts every day, and a few things like that. so, since it’s a request from leadership, my role is to submit under that. My normal attire when I don’t have any meetings with leadership or parents is chucks, jeans, and a t-shirt and a zip up hoodie. That’s my standard go to. I’ll wear a button down pearl snap or something for youth services, and chino’s for meetings, but i definitely don’t do a tie.

      i think the heart behind it is more like you said, shave regularly unless you’re bearded, don’t look like you just woke up, that kind of thing. Submit to leadership and don’t try and be anti-church culture just for the sake of rebellion.

      great post jeremy!

  5. Anthony Warnick

    Great stuff, just remember the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath, make sure you turn off the phone and you disappear for yourself and family. There is a saying the evil one will either get you to do much and you can burn out or he will try an get you to do nothing. Remember this a spiritiuel warfare and the youth are a big part of this warefare, so put on the whole armor of God.

  6. Anthony Warnick

    Great stuff, just remember the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath, make sure you turn off the phone and you disappear for yourself and family. There is a saying the evil one will either get you to do much and you can burn out or he will try an get you to do nothing. Remember this a spiritiuel warfare and the youth are a big part of this warefare, so put on the whole armor of God.

  7. Anthony Warnick

    Even though the scriptures says that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath,as a youth minister your Sabbath may have to be on a Monday. In otherwords please try an take off one day a week for your own sanity and peace and turn off all of the days behind you, so you will be able to handle the days ahead of you.

  8. Anthony Warnick

    Even though the scriptures says that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath,as a youth minister your Sabbath may have to be on a Monday. In otherwords please try an take off one day a week for your own sanity and peace and turn off all of the days behind you, so you will be able to handle the days ahead of you.

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