40 hours a week just does not seem like enough time to get everything done with my youth ministry. Pizza parties and paintballing with students is wonderful building time with students, but it requires coordinating rides, advertising, getting the volunteers, and ensuring everyone has fun. Then you have youth group, small groups, discipleship time, planning times, training volunteers, meeting with parents and senior pastors, and whatever other odd jobs along the way. Then you may have a spouse, your own students, and time with God.
But so many times, the real moments with students are not scheduled or expected. Students come to us with HUGE issues ranging from getting their girlfriend pregnant to not getting accepted to her first and only college. How do we handle it?
- Have It Planned Into Your Schedule
Do you know what is coming up for the next couple of weeks? I intentionally schedule all of my meetings with at least an hour block in between them. So many times after having meetings with students about student leadership or youth group, one of them usually needs to have something that they need to talk about. This buffer room gives me the ability to be able to take 45 minutes to listen to their hearts and minds while they are willing to open up. This shows the students you honor them and want to hear them.
- Keep Your Schedule On Hand
Most likely the conversation is going to have to last more than an hour and you will need to follow up with at least a second meeting. This means that you need to plan the next meeting and will need to know when you are free. Have a daily planner or your iPhone calendar up-to-date with meetings and events. This way, you do not have to wait two or three days to schedule and potentially forget about setting up the meeting. As you write down the meeting, jot down a few of the important things you talked and where you left off while they are still fresh in your mind.
- Being Prepared
Many times those second and third meetings with students are not going to be easy and they will be asking some very tough questions. For issues like bullying, grades, and parents divorcing, it is always a good idea to have resources on your shelf. Two that I would highly recommend are The Youth Worker’s Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis and Emergency Response Handbook for Youth Ministry. For issues that you probably would be a lot less likely to handle, abusive parents, suicidal thoughts, or sexual identity issues, you should have a sheet of counseling services that you know specialize in certain areas. This is a perfect reference guide that you can trust in when the rubber hits the road.