You have started a new full-time or part time youth ministry position. There will be this day, after you have smiled and met everyone, where you sit at your desk and ask the question:
Compile a list of all of the youth and their families and pray for them regularly. Always make sure that this list, with phone numbers and email addresses, is close by so that you can easily write notes on it. Keep it handy to quickly be able to update and make a phone call. Make sure this list has everyone –not just the active youth.
Listen and Look
Be ready to spend one year listening and observing what is going on. Your main job is to be present and hear where the youth and their families want to join you in ministry. Natural leaders who will be great people for you to work with will begin to step forward.
Also you will find questionable things going on that may give you concern. Bring these concerns forward with the designated leadership (clergy, youth committee, parents) and work on a plan to move forward.
So much of your first year is just being available to begin relationships with the youth, their families and the entire parish.
- Open yourself up as a dinner or lunch guest to your youth and families homes.
- At multiple parishes I said out loud, “I enjoy eating nice home-cooked dinners and meeting new people. You can help me with this by signing up to have me over on Thursday nights in September.” That may sound crazy but it worked every time. Many of my strongest relationships with youth and their families started through that invitation.
- Attend an outside the church youth event at least twice a month. Sports, school plays, and concerts.
- Besides getting to see the youth you will often be sitting next to parents who will be very appreciative that you are taking an interest in their youth. Parents often introduced me to other families at the event also.
- Say good morning to the acolytes or any youth who participate in the Sunday Service.
- Attend a non-youth parish meeting. (ECW, Men’s Breakfast Groups, Outreach groups)
- These are great ways to get more people to know you and the youth ministry that is happening at the church.
Pull together a calendar of events that are already planned for youth and their parents. This includes when the regular youth group meeting will happen, as well as any special events or diocesan or larger Church events. Even though you are new, there are already events planned and this will only help you add some more.
- Why give out a list of our weekly dates? Because more than likely you will cancel some due to holidays or busy weekends. Communicate this to parents now and they are more likely to see you as someone who has a plan.
- Shouldn’t I do this with a committee? If a youth ministry support committee made up of youth and parents already exists then absolutely. However, if you are beginning in the middle of the academic year or don’t have a committee like that, then compile a list of current dates and get that out.
Here is my list of every book a new youth minister should be reading in their first year:
The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry by Kendra Creasy Dean
- I think I learned more about why I was a youth minister in this book than any other that book that I have read.
- This book will turn you into an articulate advocate for youth ministry at your parish.
Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People by Jenifer Gamber and Sharon Ely Pearson
- The prayers in this book will come in very handy throughout your ministry for special circumstances that come up in teen’s lives.
Randall Curtis the Ministry Developer for Young Adults and Youth for the Episcopal Church in Arkansas. He is also a faculty member of the Certificate in Youth and Family Ministry through Forma and the geek writer at TheholyGeek.com.