There is a segment of people in the church who are primed for reaching the youth in our communities. They can strike up conversations with teens that most of us youth pastors will never see. They have the ability to demonstrate God’s love to young people in ways that are really effective for them, but would get us adults in youth work put on the neighborhood watch’s danger list. They’re afforded access to the haunts and hangouts that we just don’t fit into, and can even get around school campuses like a smart kid with a hall pass.
These people are the very students who come through the doors of our church building every week to take part in the programs we’ve implemented to disciple them. Often, the relationships these programs facilitate are working! Young believers are being discipled in our student ministries, and they’re ready to jump into the work of reconciling their own generation to God. One of the most important things I’ve learned in student ministry is to get out of my students’ way when they see God moving and want to join what He’s doing.
Here’s a quick rundown of what I think this can look like:
Define the church well. Show students how they can be the church and cultivate an environment of expectation to do more than just show up.
Dump your ego and stop doing their portion of the work of the Kingdom. Remember that whole “many parts, one body” thing that Paul used to talk about? Don’t rob the young parts of the joy of serving in just the way, time, and place that God’s intended by doing it for them. It’s definitely more work and less recognition to teach them to do the work, but it’s right.
Discover gifts and strengths together, then connect them with people who can help them maximize those gifts.
Experiment. Let them try things that you wouldn’t necessarily try.
Be an encouraging support without being a crutch. Fight the temptation to jump in and save the day all the time. Let your students struggle to work out the issues that come up in ministry, even ones brought about by their own mistakes. The bottom line is, the same Spirit that brought Christ out of the grave is alive and active in His young church. He can handle it – whatever it is. Remind your students of that often.
How else have you seen youth ministries thriving when the youth minister gets out of the way?