We can’t do ministry alone. I know, I know, this is some groundbreaking information. There are times where we wish we could do it alone. Whether it be in a season where people keep saying “no” or when we think it’s just easier to get things done on our own. When it comes down to it, we need a team of people to get the job done. We need leaders who can connect with different types of students than we can. We need volunteers who love to organize and get supplies ready. We need parents who can connect with kids and students on a different level.
When we have a team of people who are willing to serve in youth ministry, how do we communicate that they aren’t just filling a role but instead, they’re pointing our students to cross and loving them along the way? How do we help them see that their connections last beyond those high school years? Obviously, each of our contexts are different. Some of us serve in a large congregational setting, some of us serve in a smaller setting. But all of us are charged with the task of fostering relationships between leaders and students so that our students know they have so many adults that are in their corner: praying for them, loving them, and reminding them that God is right there with them.
As you think through different ways to bring adult leaders alongside in the ministry you’re doing, here are four things to consider:
Bring leaders along as you do life with students.
I strongly believe in showing up for your students outside of Wednesdays and Sundays. It shows your students you see and what to support the things that bring them joy. It also shows you want to do life with them. As you cheer your students on at their games, watch them as they perform on stage, attend their concerts, invite your youth ministry leaders to join you. When your leaders see how invested you are in teen’s lives, they will see the ongoing, bigger, beautiful picture of youth ministry. Modeling what our daily vocations look like can leave a powerful impact.
When you’re planning events, be intentional about the leaders you choose.
Finding the right leaders (or maybe even leaders at all) has the potential to be the hardest part of any ministry area. As you’re thinking through the people you want to invite into mission trips, retreats, etc., look for adults that youth will continue see around your church after the events are done. Even though recruiting anyone for bigger, lengthier programs can be hard, connections made there can set up your next season of healthy youth ministry. A student is more likely to keep coming back if they see adults that they love and trust showing up outside of those bigger events.
Challenge your leaders to reach out to the students they have connections with.
When I was first getting started as a DCE, one of my mentors told me to always bring leaders alongside me as I connected with youth. In doing so, youth could look at their church and see the adults outside of the staff that were “in their corner”. Long-term relationships are key for sharing the Gospel, and staff are not always able to be that for youth. Challenge the adults who come alongside you to reach out to their students over the course of the week.
Students often create special relationships with each other in youth ministry, but they need adults too. A chapter of my story was rewritten because of connections I made with three of our high schoolers on our mission trip last summer. When you help to facilitate those connections, there’s a potential for transformation not only amongst youth but amongst the leaders as well. It can be easy to lose track that you are serving to God’s glory as you serve youth and other adult leaders. God is working through you in big events and in little everyday conversations.
Encourage connection beyond high school.
We don’t stop loving our students when they graduate high school. We want them to be in worship, Bible study, and Christian community long after they leave youth ministry. Encourage your leaders to continue to reach out to the students they’ve walked alongside once they begin their post-high school life. It could be as simple as just sending a text reminding them that they aren’t forgotten as they begin a new chapter. Ask how they can be praying for that young person.
One of my small group leaders that I get to serve alongside still meets with students who graduated 5-6 years ago. She does Bible studies with them and prays with them. This leader is consistently in the lives of our young people to make sure that they know that God loves them and is with them.
I am an incredibly relational person. I love going to the games, the plays, the concerts. I love when a student asks if we can grab coffee or dinner to talk through whatever is going on in their lives at that time. But what I love even more is when I hear stories of our teens bring their youth ministry leaders into their lives, or when an adult at church is the first person they turn to when they need prayer or encouragement. It brings me joy because it means that, to that youth, the church is a safe place with safe people, that it is the kind of life together God desires for us.
We want youth who look at the church and see a place where God is present, bringing salvation in Jesus. We want them to grow and be challenged in God’s Word, to have fun and create memories, and see that they are loved, saved, and changed by God. We are not always successful in caring for teens. When we fail or try to do it all on our own, we should admit our sins and weaknesses of going it alone. When other adults let us or our youth down, be comforted and strengthened by God’s forgiving absolution.
Please don’t do ministry alone. God is with you, working through you. The care and support we’ve been called in our vocations to do is incredible. It is even more incredible when we bring in other adults and live out God’s work in us together.