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I can remember driving 2 and a half hours to get to a meeting of Southern Baptist Youth Pastors in my state because I was told it would be a better idea than meeting with the Youth Pastors of various denominations that were more local. I went for it, because my experience with the local network hadn’t been all that great, though I couldnt really blame the guys in the group. Three of the 7 had been together for nearly 10 years, while I was the first Youth Pastor from my church to join, and the other 3 churches had youth pastors that never lasted more than 2 years. Hence, those three had a great conversation every 3 months and the rest of us sat silently waiting for the meeting to be done.
So when I got to my destination a few hours away, I was the first one to arrive, but slowly a few other Youth Pastors filled into a room with our State Youth Rep to meet. I was looking forward to this being better, more organized, and more relatable, but none of those things were able to happen.
The details of what followed don’t really matter, because the point is that my experience with “Youth Pastor Network’s” has been that they don’t work for me. It’s too easy for the meetings to turn into bragfests about numbers (even when this isnt the heart of the speaker, we just take offense easily when someone talks about numbers that happen to be larger than ours) or when the good topics do come up, it always seemed like it was one sided, as in “I don’t really care about coming to your event your planning, but we are throwing an event that I would love for you to partner with us on.”
Before I go on, I should say, my desire is to grow in community with more local Youth Pastors around me, I think it can be rewarding, it should be a great experience, it’s just not always as easy as it sounds to do.
But the last few years, I have loved getting to Network with Youth Pastors online. Nothing can replace face to face, personal relationships with other Youth Pastors, yet at the same time, I have grown to have community with several Youth Pastors far better than I can imagine the best local network could ever dream of.
One of the things I think that enables such great community among Youth Pastors online (for most, at least) is that the sense of competition doesn’t even have a chance to creep in to conversations, and so a greater level of honesty and transparency is able to happen.
So I wanted to share a few places where I have been able to really connect with other Youth Pastors. A few of these are groups our site runs, or that I have started, but please dont see this as me just trying to promote our site. If you try these groups, you will see the value in them compared to others.
Youthmin.org: Everyday Youth Pastors Facebook Group
This was the first group our site started just 5 months ago and it has nearly 450 people in it. We launched it because we had thoughts about starting a forum on the site, but we really thought that forums were dead compared to Facebook groups. A lot of our contributors are members of other groups, and this will sound Biased but if you check it out, you will hopefully see truth, this group is different. We don’t allow self promotion, or spamming with links, and we try not to keep it a club that just the administrators get to use. We love this community and will fight to protect what we have with it. I highly encourage you to join.
#Uthmin.net Facebook Group
Similar to our group, this group keeps the wall focused on healthy conversations, but what separates it is that it is Middle School focused. I love being a member of this group, and I love what Coach Shef and Jeremy Lee and Elle Campbell do with the group and have planned for the site when it launches.
#collegemin Facebook Group
A lot of hashtag group names, I love it. This is a fairly new group, and I havent gotten to use it as much, but I know it’s one of the only ones out there for those that work with College students in churches, and these sorts of groups can really prove to be invaluable for brainstorming, questioning, and just advancing our ministries altogether.
This is one that I started, but it really isnt connected to the site. Communities just launched on Google+ last week, and I just happened to be the one to start the Youth Ministry one. There’s been a lot of new friends I have met on there, and hey, it gives me a good excuse to finally use google+! What I love about this community is that you can get far more organized with the topics of discussion. Check it out to see what I mean.
Those are the four groups I use the most. Like I said earlier, I’m a member of several other Youth Ministry groups on Facebook, but I just believe these are better, because they actually focus on Youth Ministry and not personal opinions, petty fights, and spamming with blog posts. These are Youth Ministry Networks that actually work.
And I have to throw in a quick statement about two new groups that we just launched on Facebook yesterday. One is Church Media, because there are plenty of Youth Pastors who also handle videos, designs, announcements, social media, etc. for their church. This is a great group for getting critiques on designs, tips for productivity in these arenas, and more, without taking away from Youth Ministry conversations on the main group page.
We also just launched a group for Youth Pastors who are also leading the Childrens Ministry. Again, there are plenty of these dual threat Youth Pastors, and this could grow into an amazing community for you if it’s where you’re at.