5 Ways to Grow at SYMC
The following is an adaptation from my book 99 Thoughts on Caring for Your Youth Group . While here at SYMC, these are some ideas for you to grow and get some breathing room.
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.
Stop By SYMC’s bookstore and pick up a book in an area that you are weak or that you don’t normally read. If you are head smart, get a book about your heart. If you are heart strong, get something for your head. If you can’t plan, get a book about organizing your youth ministry.
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.
There are tons to learn from. Watch and learn. I watch two things while at a conference. One is the event itself, and secondly, how everything is rigged and is running. Some of us have to pull off decent sized events, or hope to in the future. Grab some paper and take notes on what works and what doesn’t. How we can make your experience better and what you never thought of before.
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.
YOU ARE HERE. BE HERE. Seriously, from now until Monday AM, you are here. Let your team at home do their jobs. If it is a miserable failure it will be a leadership lesson for all. You for what you need to set up your team, and your team in how they can take the reigns without you. Put your cellphone and email away, focus on relationships, on being in sessions, on getting your soul cared for in the Shelter.
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.
Here there are many that have tons of experience, leading sessions, leading connect groups. Listen, and ask when you have a question. In sessions speak up and ask that “DUMB Question” probably someone else is thinking it too, or if nobody is thinking it, you are raising a point to the consciousness of the group that will help them engage the material more successfully in the future.
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.
Participate! While at SYMC, feel free to jump in and get your hands dirty! Staying in your room the entire time won’t always help. Volunteer to do an experiment, raise your hand, jump in and be present. It’s a great way to engage the group and this conference.