an open letter to “current youth worker”

Dear Current Youth Worker:

We mean no insult by generalizing your name in this fashion. You are an individual of the highest order. But if you’re new to youth ministry, you might be curious to know why we address your incoming mail in this fashion. So here are a few reasons:

1. There was somebody there before you with a different name.

Sometimes we mess up and use their name in conjunction with yours, Current Youth Worker. This is only in case they come by and check for messages. Their influence on the ministry where you now work/volunteer didn’t end when they left. You know this, especially if you’re new. They did it better than you ever will, so your only real hope is to hang on long enough for everyone who was involved in that person’s ministry to move on or forget. This will take 4 to 5 years, so it might be easier to move on to a church that has never had a youth ministry if criticism isn’t your thing. Otherwise you’ll need to find parents to support you and help you sort through what’s really important to ministry now and worth continuing and gently letting go of things that could otherwise become The Event We Can’t Cancel But No One Remembers Why.

2. There will be someone after you with a different name.

If you’re super motivated, you can pretty quickly get some mail coming that has your birth name alongside the name we call you, Current Youth Worker. We’ll still call you by our name, of course, because we know that you won’t be there forever. In fact, if you wanted to exercise some diligence in your work you could even plan for what your youth ministry will look like when you leave. Engage some key leaders that have legitimate buy-in on the vision for ministry at your church. Enable them. Guide them. Empower them. Not to carry out your whims, but to genuinely shape the direction of the ministry so that, on the inevitable eventual day of your departure, your church owns their youth ministry and they aren’t left with a half-spun bag of your dreams and ambitions to drag from interviewee to interviewee, looking for fulfillment from a future Current Youth Worker. If your time there ends up defined as the glory days, you probably messed up somewhere.

3. Anything addressed to “Current Youth Worker” is a calculated postage risk against potential profit.

Don’t be an idiot, Current Youth Worker. Real mail has your name on it. It’s to you, not all youth workers. I don’t mean that it’s all trash; surely something genuine comes through from time to time on glossy card stock. But you should definitely stand over a recycling bin while perusing your mail. The youth ministry marketing machine is about to (if it hasn’t already) hit high gear. The ministry event with national speaker A and popular worship band B is a for-profit entity. Make some actual friends that can give you actual advice. Sit with a youth ministry veteran of 20 years over lunch a time or two and keep the cash for that $350 event in your budget for something else. There’s no real community to be found in your inbox.

So there ya go. Don’t be discouraged, Current Youth Worker. It’s true that you’re a blip on the timeline of your church’s ministry. Don’t keep that knowledge to yourself. Give your ministry back to the local body. Don’t try to be the person before you. Don’t limit the person after you. And for crying out loud, stop filling out information cards for prizes at youth worker events.

We look forward to hearing from you. Early bird registrations get free shipping!

The YM Direct Mailing Machine

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