Update: Want to get involved on the ground floor of transforming youth ministry? Realizing that you need a supportive network of fellow youthworkers in your corner? Now is the perfect time to commit to better self-care and better networking in youth ministry. YWM Community and Care Groups will begin meeting weekly starting next week, January 27, 2014. Our first groups will be meeting Monday mornings and Thursday mornings, we will add more times as more youthworkers sign up. Read more about Community and Care Groups & sign up today. Let’s do this!
There is a strange phenomenon that happens at the National Youth Workers Convention and I wonder if you noticed it too. It seems like people attending the convention are just happy to be around other people who understand them. Finally, someone who understands that working in a church can be crazy! Someone who understands what it means when a rule at your church has been created because of something the youth group broke or did, or what the challenge is like to try to make the senior pastor, senior citizen church member and high school senior all happy. It makes me wonder – why do we all need to be around other youth workers to feel understood? Is youth ministry a lonely profession?
Youth ministry can be a lonely career for a number of reasons, but the main reason is that you are misunderstood by so many different people. Nobody understands you. The senior pastor is hard to talk to about your job stress because she is not only your supervisor, but she may also be overwhelmed with her own job stress of running a church or may be so far removed from youth ministry that she doesn’t relate. Parents of youth are caught up in parenting their teens and may not want to know you are struggling. The average church member does not understand the pressures of your job – what you know is a lot of work and stress looks like fun and games. Even other youth workers in your conference may be either wrapped up in their own situations or are still so closely connected to your church and situation that it makes talking candidly about any job problems difficult.
Even when the job is fun, it’s lonely. Your family and non-youth ministry friends love you, but they cannot understand why you need to run to the local discount store for balloons, marshmallows and duct tape to teach a Bible lesson. It’s hard to explain why a job that looks like planning games and trips can be stressful. When a difficult to reach youth finally has a breakthrough and you see God at work, it’s hard to put your excitement into words people will understand.
My story: When I was given my two weeks’ notice from a church staff youth ministry position a couple of years ago, I was at my loneliest. Hurting, but not wanting to hurt the church, I felt I could not talk too candidly with the members of the church. My church family was going to cease to be my church family in two weeks – there was much love there but the connections were tied to my employment. The pastors of the church were not pastoral to me, maybe from lack of human resources training (that could be its own blogpost), maybe from their own job stress, maybe because even their pastoral connections were tied to my employment. Even my family and non-youth ministry friends who loved me through this did not fully understand how much a youth minister’s identity is wrapped up in their position at a church, a position I was about to lose. I did not know who I could turn to locally for support.
There was one group of people who understood, however, my colleagues from the Youth Worker Movement. We had been meeting on Skype once a week for the purpose of putting together a weekly newsletter, but what began as an organizational meeting has evolved into about 45 minutes a week of sharing what is going on in our lives, hearts and ministries – and a few minutes of sharing youth ministry ideas and organizing a newsletter. When news spread about my job loss, my Youth Worker Movement friends were quick to set up a Skype call with me to talk through my situation and make sure I was okay. They were the support I needed when I needed it most. We are a wacky mix of youthworker misfits from different parts of the country with different stories about how we became involved in youth ministry, but we are all able to speak the same language about the joys and challenges of youth work. These are my people, my people who understand me. These are people who understand the heart and soul of youth workers and with whom I can be honest with about struggles without fear of someone telling the Senior Pastor.
Youth ministry can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Would you like to be part of a group that understands you? We discovered at the National Youth Worker Convention in Nashville that there is a need for youth workers to connect with each other in a safe, supportive network of colleagues. We are excited to announce that we are now forming Youth Worker Movement Community and Care Groups and you are invited to join in.
What is a Community and Care Group? This is a group of 6-12 Youth Worker Movement members from around the world who meet once a week via Skype or Google Hangout to share ideas, experiences and life together. Each group will have a moderator and suggested topics, meeting at a time that works best for your group’s schedule. Sharing our common background of Wesleyan theology and love for youth ministry, these are people who can speak a common language and who understand each other. It’s a great community for sharing creative ideas as well. It is our hope that through these connections you too will find “your people,” a group that understands your job and makes it a little bit easier.
Here’s how to join:
1. Fill out this form:
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2. Groups will be matched based on common interests and available meeting times. The initial groups will meet Monday and Thursday mornings.
3. Calls will begin next week with the help of a call moderator (that’ll be me) and topics to get you started.
It’s our prayer that these newfound friendships bring more health and joy to your youth ministry.
What youth ministry support/networking groups have you been a part of? What was successful/unsuccessful about this experience?
Who do you turn to for support in the more difficult times of youth ministry?
Who do you turn to for idea and resource sharing?