Are you joining the staff of a larger church? Are you beginning “mega church youth ministry?” Here are 20 things that I’ve learned the hard way. Hope you enjoy!
1. Realize you’re on a team. Upgrade your interpersonal skills.
You will need to learn how to deal with disagreements and conflict in a healthy manner. Read up on this stuff and don’t assume that you’re great at it.
2. Learn your place. Be quiet in staff meetings. Spend the first 6 months – 1 year listening.
Do not go into ministry thinking that previous programs or successes will transfer to a larger church. Each church has their own personality. Keep quiet about past successes. No one wants to hear about what awesome thing you did last year. They want you to lead in your current condition. This transfers over to staff meetings too. Spend time listening.
3. Develop a thicker skin. Get ready for input from your team leaders. Be ready for performance reviews.
If you do not have thick skin, then get ready for your feelings to be hurt. In larger situations, you’ll have more people who evaluate your ministry and give constructive criticism. Just because a leader sees an area that needs improvement doesn’t mean that they don’t like you. They aren’t out to get you either.
4. Know your place. Communicate directly with your supervisor. If he/she says no, don’t go above his head. Respect the chain of command.
Be ready to explain your ideas. Know how what you want to do fits into your current system. Larger churches do not like to do something just for the sake of doing it. Your leader WILL tell you no at some point. When that happens about an idea that you’re passionate about, do not go over their head. This will destroy trust and make you look like a brat.
5. Be ready to plan ahead. Larger churches like stability. That means you need to start planning out programs and events 6 months – 1 year in advance.
Long gone are the days where you can plan a month or two out. You’ll need to know what you’re preaching on, what your small groups are learning, and any events that you’re planning (as well as prices of those events) well in advance. The further you plan out the better you’ll look and less parents will complain.
6. Get ready for detailed budget planning. Save your receipts and be ready to deal with a financial team.
The financial team will have certain requirements of you. You’ll need to keep receipts, put them into budget categories, and prepare statements. Spend wisely and record with a passion.
7. Get to know the entire staff. Make time to make friends.
Staff interaction is VERY important. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but you need to be social with the rest of the team. Those friendships will be important. If you keep to yourself, you’ll look arrogant.
8. Build a strong volunteer base.
Your job is now about building and equipping leaders to do ministry. Delegate. Train. Let go. If you make yourself essential in any area other than leadership, you’ve failed.
9. Learn the DNA of the church. Don’t create your own mission/vision statements. Adapt the church’s mission and vision for students.
This is my personal opinion, but the last thing you want is to segregate yourself from the larger church. Show your leaders and your team that you walk in step with the vision and mission of the leadership.
10.Familiarize yourself with other ministries. Be ready to answer general questions about ministries you don’t lead.
It never fails, someone someplace will ask you about another ministry. Be prepared to give an answer and then direct the person appropriately. If you do not take the time to know what everyone else on your team is doing, you’ll appear as if you don’t care.
11. Get ready for Executive Pastors.
These men and women oversee the administrative duties of the Senior Pastor. They are important people to know and have good relationships with.
12. Learn to create systems for handling issues instead of dealing them as they come up.
Be ready for hotel situations, volunteer expectations, payment plans, benevolence requests, etc. You need to think through this stuff. You need to project and be consistent.
13. Look at yourself as a “senior pastor” of the youth group instead of a youth pastor.
Doing ministry in a larger group context means you won’t have your hands on everything. You’ll also need to learn how to counsel students and parents.
14. Become an expert at communication.
Send bi-monthly volunteer emails (mailchimp.com), get a professional texting service (tatango.com), and publish 3 month calendar (with events, prices, and info).
15. Be careful what and how you post.
Do not post ANYTHING on Facebook/Twitter about politics, arguments, the church, ministry staff, or anything that should stay in your head. Do not respond on Facebook/Twitter to anything students say or do that is questionable. That’s something you should handle in private.
16. Set detailed goals.
Where do you want your ministry to be in a year? Detail out exactly how you are going to accomplish that. Set dates to have them completed by and stick to it. Here’s a great example: “By December 2012, I will have sent out a monthly newsletter on the 1st of every month to our parents.” Take these goals and give them to your supervisor. It builds trust, keeps you accountable, and will move the ball down the field.
17. Practice preaching by yourself!
You probably think that you’re a pretty good preacher. I promise you this: We all have areas we need to work on. Since most of your students will only get to know you through your sermons, get ready to practice. Are you unprepared? Those students will think you’re a joke. Do you “angry preach?” Those students will think you’ve got a chip on your shoulder all the time. Do you preach forever without stopping? Yep, those students will think you just like to hear yourself talk. I practice preaching by myself on stage with the lights, sound, and mic exactly how they will be on Sunday morning. I go over my tone of voice, what I’ll emphasize, where I’m standing, where I’m looking, etc. Practice!
18. Know your “thing.”
What’s your “thing?” I don’t know, but I know every communicator has one that is unique to them. Have someone watch you preach. Video yourself and watch it later. Look for that one thing that you do every time you speak that you’re not aware of. Is it a “preacher voice?” How about horrible hand gestures? Ummmm? Over the years, I’ve trained a lot of students to preach. Here are some of the “things” that I’ve seen: One leg goes limp and it drags when they walk back and forth, the “bouncing” guy, the Ricky Bobby hand gesture guy, and the “I’m a southern baptist black preacher 16 year old white upperclass student guy.” Learn whatever your “thing” is and STOP IT.
19. Find other mega church youth pastors and connect with them.
Hear me out….I’m not giving you permission to be a jerk, think you’re better than everyone else, or anything like that. However, doing “church” on a larger scale is totally different that doing ministry at a smaller church. Seek out of pastors in your situation and meet with them on a regular basis. Don’t forsake going to the regular area youth pastors meeting, but find a supplemental group. If you become a “I’m a mega church youth pastor and I’m better than you.”, I’ll come to your church and punch you in the balls. (Female youth pastors, I don’t see you struggling with that.) DUDE–DON’T BE THAT WAY!
20. SHARE your resources.
You will have a much larger budget than most churches. Share your resources with other people. This means that you aren’t downloading everything from someplace else too. Since you’re at a larger church, you have the time to create your own stuff. Curriculum is fine, but it needs to be the starting point. When you create custom series and graphics, give them away to other churches in the area. When you have extra Bibles or books, give them away to a smaller church’s youth pastor. This isn’t a homeless ministry, but a good stewardship move. Invest in the kingdom. Don’t horde.