(Over the next few months, maybe longer, I will be writing weekly posts on my journey of starting a new youth ministry position. The focus will be on general tips and suggestions for any youth minister starting a new position, but I will add-in moments specific to my situation. My goal is to offer advice to help other youth ministers and not write an online journal of my own personal experiences. In order to make this series of articles as beneficial as I can, I would appreciate your feedback and thoughts. And remember as you read about my journey in a new youth ministry that every situation is different; therefore, these ideas are just ideas and suggestions. You need to know your church culture and adjust your week-by-week to fit those needs.)
As with any new job, there is no time to slowly ease into a new ministry. We were supposed to pull our moving truck into our rented house about 5 pm. This was the time we told people we would be there, and the time they agreed to help us unload. To make it to our destination on time, we allowed ourselves 8 hours to get from point A (old home in southern IL) to point B (new home in NW OH). In a car this trip would take about 6 hours. On this day, with people waiting for us, the trip took nearly 10 hours. Yes, we were almost 2 hours late for our arrival.
When we finally arrived, most of the people were still there to help unload. One noticeable absence was the senior minister. He was planning on being there, but had to go to the hospital to be with one of the members and her family. It turned out that this very time we were arriving at a new ministry, the church family had lost a dear friend. And so, less than a week “on the job” and I attended my first visitation and funeral for a member of the congregation. A sad reminder that life does not ever “pause” for anything.
My first few days in the office were spent rearranging the furniture and trying to unpack all of my boxes - let’s just say I have a book collection. There are 14 shelves for my books and I still need more. With my first week over, I can say that my office is mostly unpacked (there are still 8 boxes with folders/binders/books in them that have nowhere to go) and I’m starting to get settled in. My first week in the office has been more than just unpacking boxes; I’ve been able to meet with the senior minister and start thinking about the fall kickoff and the next school year. I know I can’t wait too long to start dreaming and planning.
My first official Sunday as the youth minister was a full one. During the first service, I was able to teach one of the jr. church classes. I was filling in for the teacher who was on vacation (and I’m glad I was able to). The only thing that went wrong was that we ran out of time and didn’t get to finish one of our projects. Then during Sunday School, I sat in on the high school class. This was a good chance to get to learn more about the students. I am planning on floating around the various Sunday School classrooms for the first several months. This will give me a chance to see what is currently taking place and to see the students and teachers interact. The second service was a chance for me to be a part of the service without having any responsibilities. Following the second service, we had a carry-in meal and some games - for a July 4th celebration. These activities are always fun and I’m glad we were here to participate. On this day, I played ladderball - won, played corn hole - lost, participated in a water balloon toss - got wet.
Overall, this week I have been trying to learn names. I would like to say that I have a good grasp on all of them, but at this point I’m not quite there. I am working my way through the list of teachers, sending each one a “thank you” note. I started sending this out before we moved with the hopes of getting them all out before the move, but it did not work out that way. I am also starting to organize information about the students and get all of the info into one place. This will take time, but I know if I can get it going early in my ministry that it will save me time and energy later. Outside of ministry stuff, my wife and I are working on making all of the necessary changes that go with moving: insurance, retirement, licenses, mailing address changes, finding a house, utilities and phones.
There is one more thing I have worked on during my first week in a new youth ministry: my family time. I have intentionally made time to be with my family at night (ie. no work stuff at home). I know this is important and I know it needs to be a habit, one I start early. This new schedule has been a tough adjustment for my kids - over the past two years they have gotten used to me being home a little bit more. I am very thankful for all of the time I get to spend with my wife and kids and I want to make sure I continue to have time with them every day.
Week 1 Bulletpoints:
- work on organizing office
- meet with other staff
- be flexible
- start planning
- gather student's info
- start learning names
- think/pray about the ministry
- implement your normal office hours and day off
Goals of the near future:
- youth coach meeting
- one-on-one meetings with youth coaches
- finish putting stuff away (ie. getting rid of all boxes)
- ideas for Fall Kickoff and school year
- find new curriculum for jr. church
- spend time with youth/families