Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Every Youth Worker Needs: Friends Their Age

(Youth ministry is not an easy ministry. And in this series, Every Youth Worker Needs:..., I want to highlight a variety of things that might make your ministry a little easier. This ongoing series will include ministry tips, book suggestions, technology helps, and many other nuggets of advice.)

As a youth worker, you spend a majority of your time with students - teenagers & preteens to be exact. These are individuals who are still in the process of figuring out who they are and what makes them unique. And for some reason, these students (well a number of them) will take time out of their busy schedules to listen to you talk, interact in discussion, put up with silly antics and laugh at out-dated cultural references. And youth workers love spending time with students because God wired it into your heart.

But we all know that these same students have a lot of growing up to do. They make impulsive decisions without thought of how it might affect someone else. They act selfishly. Some are quick to break a commitment, if something "better" comes along. And youth workers love spending time with these students because God wired it into your heart.

Being a youth worker means you spend a lot of time with students and their families. You spend time thinking about how to teach, disciple and interact with them. You spend time planning events geared toward them. You spend time praying for them. You spend time figuring out how to handle a situation they are involved with. You spend time personally talking with them. You even spend time just hanging around them. And if you are not careful, without warning, you will start spending most of your time with teenagers and very little time with adults.

Because a youth worker's work (ministry) centers around teenagers, it is extremely important to have adult friends. You need friends to hang out with who do not care what you do for a living. People who do not expect you to have "all the answers." You need time away from the teenage culture. You need to be able to talk with adults who know you as something other than a youth worker.

When was the last time you had dinner with a friend, your age? When was the last time you spent time with an adult that did not have a child in your ministry nor was involved with the youth ministry team? If it has been months (dare I say years) since you have had a true friend who was not a teenager, then you need to stop reading and make a phone call. I say that because I know what it is like to be in youth ministry and not have a close adult friend. It can become very lonely.

You can find a friend in a number of places outside the walls of your youth room. Maybe its in the class you take at the local collage. Maybe its at the gym. Maybe you meet your friend playing golf each week at the same course. Maybe you both have kids in the band or on the tennis team. Maybe its your neighbor. Maybe you will find a friend at the coffee shop you go to each day. Or maybe your new friend goes to your church but has no interest in youth ministry, whatsoever.

Just know that having a friend your age is important to your longevity in youth ministry. You need to build friendships with adults who will hold you accountable. Friends who will listen to you share frustrations and struggles. Friends who will rejoice when you rejoice. Friends who actually know what you are talking about when you mention a TV show from your high school years. Besides, if you never have adult friends you might just forget that you are an adult and not a teenager.

(Every Youth Worker Needs: A Blog Series About Things You Need in Youth Ministry)

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