by LeRoy Wilke
Working with young people can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. Youth will challenge your adult thinking and behavior, yet they will eagerly form important and lasting relationships. Working with young people can be difficult and frustrating, too, especially if your role as counselor is unclear. As you begin your work you will want to identify and clarify the expectations the people of your congregation have of you and your task.
What people expect a youth counselor to be and do will be important to a number of people in your congregation–parents, the pastor, church council and committee members, and youth themselves. But their expectations may not be the same. You will need to know how they are alike and how different. What roles should leaders fill? What is the relationship to the young people? Most will expect adult leaders to commit time, energy and personal attention. But what else?
Expectations can be thought of as roles that describe who you are, what you do, how you relate to youth and other adults, and what tasks need to be done. We can identify at least seven such roles: friend, model, motivator, enabler, organizer, advocate and resource.
As you note how these role descriptions fit what the people of the congregation expect, you can check your expectations of yourself against those models. What do you expect of yourself as an adult worker with youth? Are you able to see yourself in one or more of the seven roles above? As you continue your preparation, answer these questions for yourself:
Which role(s) do you think is most appropriate in your congregation’s youth ministry program?
Which role(s) do you feel most able to fill?
Which role(s) do you feel least able to fill?
As you clarify the various expectations in your role as an adult worker with youth, there are some additional questions/guidelines to follow:
What are your specific responsibilities? Get them in writing and be sure that both you and the persons to whom you are responsible understand the tasks and expectations.
Who establishes policy? Is there a board/committee in your congregation which determines the purpose and structures for youth ministry? Are youth and adults on this committe? Do you have access to this committee? If there is no committee, who are you responsible to?
What are the guidelines? Obtain a written copy and question those you do not understand.
How will youth ministry and your role as an adult worker with youth be evaluated? How is the evaluation determined? How often will this be done? How is youth ministry evaluated?
How much time is required of you? Are you expected to attend every meeting and event? What about informal meetings?
Will additional training be needed? What is available and who will pay for it?
After you have sorted out all of the expectations related to your role as an adult worker with youth, you and the person or committee you are accountable to might develop a written job description or contract which includes the above guidelines. Such a procedure will give you a better understanding of this ministry together. A job description is an excellent way to increase understanding, respond to potential criticism and help others clarify their own goals. A job description also strengthens relationships, eliminates unclear expectations and lays the groundwork for evaluation.
As you begin to consider your new role as an adult worker with youth, talk with your pastor or the person who has asked you to take on this rewarding challenge. Together, an exciting and challenging ministry with young people is underway.
Updated for thESource May 2012