Today can either be the best day in a youth ministers year, or the worst. Today, we have begun recruiting adult volunteers for the coming school year.
The potential for the best day of the year is obvious. Sitting in my office dreaming up potential matchups and relationships that can form between the students in our ministry and awesome caring adults is crazy. Thinking about the lives that will be impacted by an adult offering two hours a month to invest in the lives of teenagers fills me with such joy! And luckily today, that's exactly what's been happening so far. We've had a bunch of really awesome adults step up in a big way!
The potential for the worst day (which again, it doesn't seem like is happening today thank God) is the amount of arm-twisting that has to happen to get an adult to volunteer with us. Sometimes filling out the schedule for the year can be a weeks long dog fight, trying to find the just right person, and then convincing the just right person that they are in fact the just right person. But for some reason, a lot of times, adults don't believe me when I tell them they would be great at this. I think there are a few reasons for this:
Fear of numbers.
This one is somewhat warranted. I remember the first night I ever came to Veritas as an intern at Westminster. 60-70 kids who all know each other? It's like being in the middle of a stampede. We are a big youth group. We have established relationships. It can be hard for folks to break into the group. This is something we as youth leaders need to carry with us as we welcome new folks into the fold. How can we transition adult leaders into the group? Are there students who we can identify to help bring adult volunteers along?
Fear of knowledge.
The number one reason I get for folks who are unwilling to help is that they don't know the Bible as much as I do. For as much as I try to assure folks that I will never have them at the podium giving a lesson to the youth, this seems to stop folks. We have forgotten to encourage our adults in a lot of our churches to simply live life with teenagers. The church hired me to be the theologian to the youth, so I'll cover that. What I need are adults who will invest love and energy into these students. Again, I thank the sweet Lord that this year my first picks for that position are willing to hop in, and in fact are on board with relationship building. But if you find yourself in youth ministry, you would do well to encourage adults along the lines of relationship rather than teachers.
To be a volunteer in our youth ministry requires two hours a month. Join us from 6-8 on a single Wednesday every month and we're covered. What makes me sad is how many folks are simply unable to make that work. Not because they should prioritize my ministry over everything else (I mean, it is all about me!) but because if two hours is too much, how over scheduled are you? It has been true for a long time that our culture worships at the altar of busy-ness. But I feel like it's getting worse. We're running back and forth between commitments and obligations so fast that rare is the opportunity to sit back and enjoy our family. And what really bugs me is how much of this criticism I could level at myself. We are way too busy.
But here's the trick: we need these relationships to form. We need caring adults in the church to come along side the youth and invest in them. For far too long, youth ministry has been it's own entity, quick to shun the congregation to which they belong. We have to come back together and be one church of multiple generations, not generational churches.
So if your youth pastor comes a calling, take a moment to see if you can invest in your teenagers. You'll be glad you did!