What makes one a professional youth pastor? I recently read a great blog post my Matt Murphy on http://engagingtheshadowsofyouthministry.com/. It was over top ten traits that make a professional youth minister. Such a great post and I highly encourage you to read it. At one point in my youth ministry journey I asked myself this question. I was a volunteer youth minister and it was my first foray into the youth minister world. I constantly thought what makes one a professional youth minister. I’ve learned since then some things that have helped me come to grips with the fact that if your volunteer, bivocational, full time, half time, part time, most of the time, fill in, stand in, fell in, veteran, or newbie; We are all professional youth pastors. Some of us may act more professional than others, but if you assume the mantle of youth minister/pastor, student minister, etc. the you are a professional. So act like it! What are some ways you can act like it? Well this is where I will impart some advice over the next few weeks.
Have a purpose for your ministry!
For the first few years I was in ministry I floated from one event to another. From this Christian music concert, to that lock in, to the next missions event. There was no continuity and no purpose to my madness. I said there has to be a better way of doing this. It has to flow together. Then I stumbled upon a book, at the recommendation of a missionary friend of mine John Laffoon (Big ups John!). It was a little book entitled “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry” by Doug Fields. Honestly I’m a rebel. I read through it thinking “Yeah right! That’s what works out in California! Not here in Kentucky. Yeah that works great when your youth ministry has 500 kids! Not the 5 I have!” But the more I read the more it made sense. Here in my hands was the way to find the purpose of our youth ministry. Within weeks of finishing I gutted our entire operation and restarted with new concrete goals and new found purpose. Ever since then I considered that book second only to the Word of God as the most valuable book to my youth ministry.
Since then I have moved churches and as soon as I arrived at my current church I implemented a PDYM model. It works folks! But whether you use PDYM, Family Based, or one of your own design make sure your ministry has a purpose. Spell that purpose out, in either a vision statement, ministry statement, or purpose statement. Make sure you know it and can articulate it to anyone who asks.
We recently had a Nerf Blaster Battle at the church, kids had a great time, but while planning the event I was ready for any question that might arise as far as why we did that event. It was a great outreach, had two new teens come with current students. It was just plain fun, great time of fellowship. And to top it off, was a great segway into a lesson on how Satan try’s to tempt us in our Christian walk by throwing these darts our way, ie drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. But I was ready, I had the purpose of the event spelled out and everyone was aware of why we were shooting each other with foam darts.
As youth ministers we come with certain stereo types, some warranted some not, but there is one that we can break. The one that says we are unorganized and our ministry has no vision and no direction. To give you an example of our PDYM statement it is as follows, our youth ministry is called HSM by the way (Heart, Soul, and Mind Youth Ministry).
“The purpose of HSM Youth Ministry is to be a JESUS CENTERED youth ministry, designed to REACH (Evangelism) non-believing junior high and high school students, to CONNECT (Fellowship) them with other Christians, to help them GROW (Discipleship) in their faith, and to challenge the growing students to DISCOVER (Ministry) their ministry and HONOR (Worship) God with their lives.”