Friday, September 5, 2014

On continuing education

We've had one full summer of youth pastoring. I can't believe it's been that long already and yet I can. It still feels like we just got here, and yet we've experienced so many things and met so many people and really settled in. It's a strange feeling, but I absolutely love it!
I have learned so much in the past few months. Man, you really find out quick that college can't teach you everything; that experience truly is the best teacher. You think you're set and then you are quickly proved wrong. But I have some very gracious teachers. They are between the ages of 11 and 18 and full of vibrant energy and personality. And they have grown very near and dear to my heart, every single one of them with their quirks and craziness. And I know that they aren't done teaching me. I have so much more to learn! But here are a few things I have learned so far from these kids:

  • Don't take yourself too seriously, because they surely won't. 
  • Prepare to laugh uncontrollably and often.
  • Have Plan A set, but make sure you know your Plan B, C, and D. This is especially true when working with middle schoolers. They are so unpredictable, you never know what is going to happen - but they are so much fun!
  • Stories are your best friend. Preaching and teaching youth requires a lot of attention getting, so make sure anything you prepare is chocked full of stories - narrative passages, personal experiences, funny/crazy illustrations, etc. 
  • Set ending times for events. This will help you stay on track and focused and will also tell parents when they need to get their children. Who knew they needed to know that? 
  • On that note, you have to communicate well with parents. Make sure you very clearly articulate what is going on, when, where, why, and how. Tell them what their kids need to wear, what they need to bring, and if there will be food. Try to answer every question you could possibly think they might ask. And then repeat that information several weeks in advance, several times through several different avenues - service announcement, email, text, flyer, postcard, etc. Adam and I are still working on this, but I like to think we are getting better at it. This seems like a no brainer, but it is actually a lot harder than it sounds. 
  • Somehow you will never have the right amount of food. Either you don't bring enough and it is all gone in a matter of seconds or you prepare way to much and end up eating six cobs of corn all by yourself. Hopefully this is one of those things I'll learn in the future, because seriously, it's a struggle. 
  • If you are having an event in the morning, make sure everything is prepared and set up the night before because something will probably go wrong in the morning causing you to forget things that you need. 
  • When things do go wrong, because they will, don't panic. Work through it, apologize if needed, and remember for next time. And hey, this is why I suggest having Plans B, C, and D ready. 
  • When you are plagued with any of the negativity, set backs, and failures you will face in youth ministry, always remember why you do what you do. There is nothing like watching kids experience God, grow in their relationship with Him, and impact their worlds. 
  • Praying in the Spirit is a must. I don't know about all of the things that these kids are facing or will face in the future. But I'll continue to pray as hard as I can for them, and continue to ask God to show me how to pray for them. 
  • Prepare to be amazed - the ways these kids worship, pray, and experience God will blow your mind.
  • Set high spiritual expectations. They've already amazed you, so set higher expectations and watch them sail right past those and on to even greater things. 
  • God moves in His time. All you can do is prepare these kids for when He does. And teach them to expect it! 
And you know, these are just a few things off the top of my head. I'm sure that the longer I sit and think, the longer this list will become. And I am sure that the list will grow, I really hope it does. I want to learn as much as I can! And who better to learn from then these kids that I love so much? 

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