5 Ways to Grow As a Youth Worker
The following is an excerpt of Brad Widstrom and my new book 99 Thoughts on Caring for Your Youth Group. We created this book so you can grow as a youth minister no matter what your pay grade (volunteer, full or part-time) and no matter where you work and for whom you work (a church, para-church, secular job). So the following is from our book and our heart for you to GROW!
5 WAYS TO GROW AS A YOUTH WORKER
Who we are is most important, but we can improve our skills—in fact, it’s essential that we do! Just remember to follow this adage: “Adapt it, don’t adopt it.” Learn from others, but remember that what works for them may not work for you—at least not without adjustments and tweaks. Here are five ways to grow as a youth worker who cares:
Grow by reading
If you’re the lead youth worker, some of the best money you can spend is on a resource library for your adult and student leaders—and if you’re a volunteer, you can help invest in this kind of library, too. Sure, it can include resources on games and how to plan activities, but it should also have counseling and crisis response resources. Search for good books that teach in-depth counseling and crisis response skills. Read these books thoroughly, and then keep them nearby. That way you can grab them when you receive a phone call but you’re not sure what to do. And make sure they’re available to any leader or volunteer who needs them. Also create a bibliography of helpful resources for students and parents. Include books, CDs, DVDs, websites, counselors, and other helpers. Then put this list in the hands of families, and consider posting it on your group’s website and Facebook® page.
Grow by watching
Just as you have your own gifts and skills, so do others. You can learn a lot by watching people in action—even your students. Many teenagers have been trained in peer counseling and response at their schools. They might be able to teach you a thing or two if you allow them.
Grow by attending
Attend formal training sessions at youth ministry or Christian education conferences, other churches, local schools and social work agencies, colleges, universities, and seminaries. Some of these are free; others may have a cost. You might even choose to invest money and take a for-credit class at a nearby college or university.
Grow by asking
Be ready to ask others for help and advice. I (Brad) once had a student who we knew was smoking pot and into the occult. I wasn’t sure how to tackle this, so I called a pastor friend. Not only did Mike spend significant time walking me through potential actions, he even came and participated as we worked to address the situation. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know everything. Reach out to teachers, pastors, other youth workers, parachurch leaders, social workers, law enforcement officers, and professional counselors.
Grow by doing
You can only read, watch, attend, and ask for so long before you need to jump into the fire. Jesus didn’t let his disciples just sit and observe; he sent them out to preach, teach, minister, and heal. They probably made as many major blunders than we do, maybe more. Remember that God has called you. God loves your students even more than you do. God will use you and even redeem your blunders. Wisely leap into the fire and care for your students in their times of need.
My Name is Matt Murphy and along with Brad Widstrom, wrote 99 Thoughts for Caring for Your Youth Group. I am the owner of EngagingtheShadowsofYouthMinistry.com and am found on twitter @MattMurphyMSWYM. I will be at Simply Youth Ministry Conference this year, probably around the books, so if you see me stop by and say hi!