“Courageous youth ministry leaders are willing to take risks to see their students and families move closer to Jesus Christ.”
As youth ministry leaders, if we are not connected to our students it will be almost impossible to minister to them effectively. We must be connected in three areas or ways: connected to the period of the students, connected to the place of the students, and connected to the person of the students. Connecting in these three areas will give us a total picture of not only that student but also their community and their lives.
Leading in youth ministry is about being fully engaged and being complete. This is where being comprehensive fits in. If you are going to be effective in youth ministry, you must see your mission as a full picture.
Imagine a pizza pie (i.e. the official food of youth ministry). If you ordered pizza for the youth night or youth event and only half of the pizza was delivered, odds are you would be upset. This is because you ordered and expected a full pizza, so to receive half of what you ordered is not acceptable. In youth ministry, when you are not comprehensive—when you have not thought through the whole picture of how to feed your students spiritually—it is also not acceptable.
You must be comprehensive in your teaching. You can’t just teach the parts of the Bible that are easiest to teach; you must teach the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You must be comprehensive in who you are. Please don’t try to be someone that you are not because students can easily detect a fake. You must be comprehensive in your ministry process, from how students come in to the ministry, to how you track them and get them fully engaged and involved in the ministry.
Lastly, in youth ministry you must have compassion. You must have a heart that breaks for the things of God. You will see and experience so much in youth ministry, not just from working with your students but also from working with their families and their communities. Sometimes you can grow numb to the issues and the pain that you witness.
However, you need to have compassion for the things that your students are going through, as they will need you to “feel” where they are so that you can lead them to a better place. Jesus had compassion on the people he encountered, which compelled him to act on their behalf. Your compassion is your power and ability to move with faith into action on their behalf.
Russell St. Bernard (@PastorRuss09) is the youth minister at Reid Temple AME Church’s north campus in Glenn Dale, Maryland, and the founder of After the Music Stops, a full-service youth ministry resource company dedicated to assisting leaders and parents as they serve their students.