The Six Flags of Youth Ministry

photo 4My youth group’s trip to 6 Flags Great Adventure had been scheduled for months, and all the senior high students anxiously awaited the opportunity to be free from their parents and spend the entire day with friends riding roller coasters and eating overpriced junk food. Upon the arrival of said day, however, my boss (the church’s youth pastor) was unable to lead the trip because of an injury. That left yours truly, the youth intern, to bear the responsibility of 21 students, their money, park tickets, and their safety.
Long story short, it ended up being a great day. Among all the rides and junk food, I got to put to test all the things I’ve been learning in the past few months about youth ministry:

1) It’s not about you. All other points fit under this capstone. The second  you begin to focus on yourself, you lose sight of your students and it is no longer about what’s best for them, but rather what’s best for you. Even though you would rather not attend an all-nighter, or sing a stupid song on stage, your willingness to be selfless might give CTA button for Blog UGway to good talks with a student, or evidence of a transparency they need to know you have.

photo 22) Leader first, friend second. Believe it or not, you can make the most difference in a students life when you first establish yourself as their leader, not their peer. In no way should you not be their friend, but it is necessary to first establish respect because then they know that you can answer their tough questions and and you’re trustworthy, setting you apart from their teenage friends.

3) Comfort zones don’t exist. As a youth leader, that kid who no one talks to is now your responsibility. Sure, you wish your students would put aside their egos to approach him, but most of the time, that’s not the case and it’s up to you to be a good example.

4) Flexibility is key. It might be a kid who calls late at night to talk when you have to be up early in the morning, a fellow leader who drops out of an event last minute, or a sound system glitch. You name a problem, and it can happen in youth ministry. The important thing is to remain level-headed because that is not only the best way to handle the situation, but it also sets a good example for your students.

photo 35) Listen. Even when the play-by-play of their softball game seems dull, or their favorite music drives you crazy, listen. Listen to their stories, experiences, and questions; you might be the only person who does.

6) There are no days off. Every hour of every day, you are their mentor, friend, and example. This line of work takes commitment, confidence, selflessness, and most of all the humility to ask God for help because you can’t do it without him.

Loving God, Serving People, and Learning Always: The Life of a Youth Intern

This summer, I will be working a few jobs. The one I am most excited for is my internship. God has blessed me with an amazing opportunity to serve Him this summer as a youth intern for a Nyack alum, Justin Reese. Since I started this job just last week, I have been learning a great deal already; most recently in youth group Sunday school. This Sunday morning, God taught me two incredibly important things I will need in life, and particularly for my internship this summer.

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Me with my boss and role model, Justin Reese.

Since I go to Sunday school as a leader to these teens and pre-teens, the prominent goal in my mind is not to learn. I attend Sunday school to do my job– make relationships with this church’s students. We talk and joke around but when the lesson starts, it’s easy for me to block it all out with the mind set of “this doesn’t apply to me, it’s for the students”. But, this Sunday morning, God taught me quite the opposite.

As Justin got up to speak, and the students started to settle down, he grabbed our attention with the idea of a “God side” and a “people side” of our lives. He asked if, as believers, God will ever reject us. The students shook their heads in a corporate “no” since this answer seemed obvious enough. Next, Justin asked if people will ever reject us. The students nodded their heads “yes” wondering where exactly their youth pastor was going with this. “Is that why we spend most of our time trying to please people, and less time trying to please God? Because we feel like we have to earn people’s respect and love, but God’s will always be there?” This caused silence to fall over the room, because Justin had just brought up a serious truth. People– even believers– have the goal of pleasing people at the forefront of their mind most of the time. Justin then went on to make the point that, as Christians, our goal is to spend 100% of our time pleasing God, and 0% of it pleasing people. This doesn’t mean that we go around hating people and being bitter, but when we strive to please God, and only God, we will strive to please people too. The difference is that we will want to please our brothers and sisters, not to gain their approval, but rather out of our love for our Creator.

As I drove home from church that morning, I thought about how everything that God was trying to get through to me in that simple message. First of all, He made it incredibly clear that I will learn as much, if not more, from this internship than my students will. Beginning this job, I feel as if I am on the cusp of a very formative time in my life, and I need to be willing and ready to learn in all circumstances. Secondly, God also made it incredibly clear that my mission is to love and serve God this summer because that is when I will truly love my students and serve them to the best of my ability.

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