Adjusting the Sails of Support
CYMS asked youth workers what support they need from their supervisors, parents, and volunteers. While answers varied by context, common responses included the need for wisdom passed down from previous leaders and relationships with other youth workers. Read what some had to say:
Beth Larson, Program Director at Portage Lake Bible Camp
I work in camping ministry so during the "off-season" (Sept-May) there are only about 5 people working around camp and the setting is a rural area. The support I need most is knowing that I am not alone; that there are other people in the same position having the same struggles. I really value my relationships with fellow camping people, knowing that I can call them to get advice or just to share with each other.
Ryan Lawrence, Student Outreach Specialist at Heart Haven Outreach (H2O)
[From parents and volunteers, I need] encouraging words, proof that things we are doing with their teens are making a difference in their lives, offers to volunteer/help out, and offers to donate items or food to the ministry or special event.
Marcus Simmons, Coordinator of Student Engagement, Diversity and Intercultural Programs at North Park University
I need support from others to help me discern between myths and truth about this ministry; be willing to make a record of the wisdom that was passed down to them for future leaders; be more transparent/honest in re-telling/critiquing both the good AND bad of past ministry/justice movements; provide much more counsel on the guilt, confusion and paralysis that comes with learning/integrating new convictions; help me discern differences in ministry within individual, small group, congregational, structural, corporate and team contexts; show me different modules for feeling out learning edges and emotional triggers of my community; and some kind of 'best practices' resource.
Dr. Fernando Arzola, Associate Dean of College of Arts and Sciences at Nyack College, and author of Toward a Prophetic Youth Ministry
[Participating in a youth worker group] will be helpful in unloading burdens, networking and learning new ideas. Read leadership books beyond "ministry leadership" books. Find a mentor and meet no less than 6 times per year. Don't be afraid to change mentors until you find the right one for you. Try to take youth ministry courses in college or seminary.
April Diaz, Human Development at Newsong Church, Irvine, California
Support youth pastors as an important – maybe even prophetic – voice to the church on the future of the church. If we entrust youth pastors to lead this generation, then what they know/experience/do is worth hearing and responding to.
Celebrate what the youth pastor and youth ministry are doing in the whole church. Talk about it publicly in all forms of communication whenever possible. The youth lead the way for the church often and represent what's really happening in the church.
As leaders entrusted with the spiritual growth of young people, it’s crucial to identify organizational leaders and community that can provide the support you need. Networking with like-minded youth workers, public support from supervisors, continued training and education, and seeking feedback from parents are just a few of the ways youth workers can change the ways in which they are supported. Not all environments are healthy, and prayerful consideration should be spent seeking God's word and will for the ministry and if it is a good fit for you. Some environments can be changed with communication and accountability. As John Maxwell said, “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
How will you go about adjusting the sails of your support systems?