We live in a time when the church is radically changing, a reality no more evident than among today’s youth. Yet, while the challenge may seem intimidating, when we, as youth pastors, seek to better understand the times, we can discover powerful truth and application.
Granted, it’d take a year and a day to unpack them all so for now, let’s focus on five inspired lessons for today’s youth pastor…
1) Understand the boundaries of social media
It’s no secret today’s youth live and die by social media. Perhaps you’ve noticed more of your youth defining their identity by how many Facebook likes, selfie comments, or Instagram followers they have.
Regardless, it’s critical we, as Generation Z youth leaders, understand the social impacts of modern technology and how we can use social media not only in reaching the next generation, but teaching them boundaries through the question: “How can we better point people in the direction of God’s love?”
As we’ll soon find, not only will this encourage our students, but maximize their engagement.
2) Don’t take peoples’ prolonged absences personally
If you’ve been in ministry long enough, you’ve probably noticed some families peacing out for extended periods with little to no communication. Naturally, when this happens, our first instinct is to wonder why; however, as hard as it may be, it’s critical we not take their absences personally.
For one thing, just because you’re a minister doesn’t mean you’re entitled to know every intimate detail of a person’s life. Furthermore, commitment can’t always be measured in attendance. The reality is life gets crazy and for some a breather from church can be of benefit.
Whatever the case, it’s always best to put control in God’s hands first and reach out as the Spirit leads. For when we surrender the right to fully understand another’s situation, we position ourselves to inquire with sensitivity and without agenda. Remember your role is not to maintain them (i.e. keep them in church), but to sustain (i.e. receive and encourage) them where they’re at.
3) Integrate youth leaders into communication
No question, one of the most exhausting tasks of any youth pastor is getting everyone on the same page. I’m sure many of you at some point have wondered, “Even when I communicate face to face, I have to repeat myself over and over again!”
However, as vexatious the struggle may be, when we filter this challenge through the question, “How can I reach more people with the love of Christ”, we discover how empowering youth to connect with peers can improve communication.
For instance, with my student leaders, I’ve found distributing routine contact lists not only enables adult leaders to focus more on parental communication, but allows youth to begin building relational bridges with their peers. In this way, the responsibility is shared and youth learn to not only be disciples, but disciple-makers.
4) Don’t stress about relationships
It’s inevitable. At some point, boy meets girl, boy asks girl out, and before you know it…bam! You have a dating relationship along with endless gossip fodder on your hands. As some of you can attest, the stewardship of purity can be a tricky road. Not only do you have to keep a third eye out, but you also have to navigate anxious parents and youth concerned about matters ranging from sex to social stability.
But before you press the panic button, remember your role is not to parent but to partner with parents in extending their standards. Not only will this establish trust between pastor and parent, but it will empower the parent to love as Jesus loves and the youth to love what Jesus loves. Not to mention the door will be opened for healthy dialogue to take place regularly.
5) It’s not about quantity, but quality
How many of you have ever been asked “How big is your youth group”? Probably a number of times, right?
Yet, while the question may seem shallow, we must remember…
- Faithfulness is not a function of church size.
- The purpose of church is commissioned community1, not flexing prestige through numbers.
If you ask me, I’d rather have ten passionate youth who understand the Spirit-led life, versus fifty youth looking to be entertained on their weekly pit stop.
After all, pastoring youth is all about cultivating a Gospel-driven culture, not an agenda-driven ministry2.
1) Specifically, community extending the territory of God’s presence
2) Cultivating a place where God’s presence can be known (i.e. demonstrating heaven on earth) is our purpose. Thus, it doesn’t make sense to elevate any pursuit above serving the body in a way the Kingdom is expressed.
Photo credits: whoworship.com, cbbc.com, chastity.com