One of the things that anyone new to youth ministry will learn very quickly is that you need to learn how to work in a team. “Doesn’t work well with others” is a terrible attribute for a youth worker, because you are not going to go to a church and be the only person on staff. You have to be a “team player.” As youth workers, we are always part of team ministry. In fact, as a youth worker you bring a specialization to the team. The great thing about that is that the vast majority of pastors are really supportive of you and of your work in the youth ministry. They are great team players and will support what you’re doing. But here’s the catch: they have to know what you’re doing. They need to know how what you’re doing fits in with the mission and ministry of the congregation as a whole. Which also means that you need to know and be communicating those things well and often.
The great thing about most churches is that they are really excited about bringing someone in to help with youth ministry. They’d love to hand all the responsibility for the youth over to you (don’t let them do that…but that’s another talk for another day), but it’s because they’re excited about you and they see the importance of having someone that can walk with the youth. But here’s the catch: in order to be excited, they have to know what you’re doing. They need to know how what you’re doing fits in with the mission and ministry of the congregation as a whole. Which also means that you need to know and be communicating those things well and often. Sound familiar? Well, it should, but it’s also important to know
the order of when you communicate to whom.
If I’m not first sharing with the team what I’m doing, and then communicating it to the congregation only after we as a team have had a chance to share ideas and pray about it, then I’m not fully participating in team ministry. It’s easy to see team ministry as just having each other’s backs and defending each other
when needed. While this is very important, I believe that you can avoid much of this conflict when the communication is high about what you are doing and why you are doing it. This will significantly decrease the amount of times that your pastor has to defend you when asked the question “why do we need a youth person anyways,” because they will have regularly been hearing the things that you are bringing to the team ministry. This opens up the door for team ministry to be about actually doing ministry together and sharing ideas and dreams. I’ve already seen this in my three months doing team ministry, and it’s one of the most important things I’ve learned.
The other members of your team are all really busy and it’s easy to skip collaboration and real team ministry due to time constraints and a genuine care and respect for your teammates. But briefly asking for ideas and support, even if it’s just weekly, is not a waste of time. Being incompetent is wasting their time. Don’t ask questions because you have no idea how to do your job. They don’t need to do your job for you. That’s a waste of their time and frustrating. But asking your partners in ministry to help you do the best ministry possible for your congregation is a great use of time. Giving your team members the opportunity to share any experiences they have, or background of the congregation that may be good to know, if they’ve tried this same thing before, or just to say “sounds great” is worth the time spent on it. At the same time, be thinking about ways you can support your pastors and other team members, both publicly in the congregation and privately in the office. Write a note, send a quick e-mail, brag about them to other people, pray for them, etc. Don’t just bring more ideas and specialization to the team. Bring care, concern, support, prayer and encouragement. Strive to be that kind of a team player.
Published November 2013