I spent about five years interning before I took my first full time position as Youth Pastor. Up until that point, I had little desire to work with teenagers. It was like a story straight out of the New Testament for me. I saw the Lord work in my heart, bringing me closer to the teenagers of the internship I was working. About the time that I had given up finding a full time place to go, I received the call that led to my current position. I had no idea how to be a Youth Pastor. I was eight years removed from my own teen years. My pastor, my heroes, and conferences like the Church Growth Conference taught me many lessons I needed to do the work God had given me.
1. Build a core.
Jesus had his 12 disciples. Men who just wouldn’t leave Christ alone. If you’re coming into an established youth group, figure out who your core kids are. These are young men and women who come to church every time the doors are open, who have an interest in spiritual matters, and who have an adult (parent, grandparent, etc) that encourages them spiritually. If you’re starting from scratch, build a core group through service opportunities, Sunday School, and youth activities. The people who spend time with you, or more importantly at church, are the core youth with whom you should invest your time.
2. Separate the boys and the girls.
When I attended Church Growth Conference 2018, William Davis taught that separating by gender solved 90% of all problems in class. I’ll be honest that I didn’t totally think that the problems my teen class had would be solved by splitting into a young men’s class and a young lady’s class. Then I did it. Wow! The teens sang better, were more relaxed, and were more teachable. Teens who would never participate in games began to play. The lessons could be taught more effectively. No matter the makeup or size of your teen class, I believe you should take some time out of the year to have a lady teach the ladies and a man teach the men.
3. Preparation is more than key.
Pastor Fugate taught that being successful isn’t one big act. It isn’t a single performance of my will that will make me what I want to be as a staff member, husband, father, and Christian. Success is in the small things that are done every day. A trip is only successful if you thoroughly plan it from start to finish. A rally, revival, or program will yield its best results if they are planned down to the smallest details.
4. Pray more.
Many will read this half-heartedly, or skip it altogether. Christians, and especially church staff, hear preaching and exhortations on prayer all the time. Fact of the matter is, we’re not doing the work. A pastor once challenged young preachers, “You should be praying a minimum of one hour a day for your youth program.” Imagine the difference that would be made if we accepted this challenge for ourselves. Jeremiah 33:3 “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which
thou knowest not.”
These are the most helpful lessons I learned in my first year as a youth pastor. I pray it can be a blessing to others.
Lighthouse Baptist Church, Flint, Mi