This is part 3 of 7 exploring the We Love Our Youth Worker national covenant between churches and youth workers. We Love Our Youth Worker (WLOYW), one of our partner organizations, and YouthWorker Movement both agree that healthier youth workers mean healthier youth ministries. Healthier youth ministries mean more youth can know Christ. The proposed WLOYW covenant commits churches and youthworkers to make choices that benefit youthworker spirituality and more. So far we’ve discussed commitment to prayer and spiritual growth. This week’s focus is the importance of learning and training for youth ministry.
When it comes to youth ministry training and development, I see two ways we could pretty much kill even a good youth program. One situation would be a church’s failing to invest in their best resources, their staff – and that includes paid and volunteer staff. The second situation would be when a youthworker is satisfied and quits trying to learn new things.
Our world and our youth constantly change and methods that worked for the past couple of decades don’t work the same anymore. No matter the church size, if a church doesn’t realize the value of investing in learning new practices, the program likely stagnates or declines.
Let’s take a closer look at Promise 3. Essentially, a church agrees to provide ongoing training and development. What the church says here is:
We believe that learning the skills of youth work is an ongoing process and that it’s important to continually invest in professional development.
We promise to set aside time and money to provide training and development for our youth worker.
How invested in development and training is your church? One of the craziest sounding best practices I’ve seen in this area was at First UMC, Mansfield, Texas. For their youth ministry interns, the church finds college students interested in going into ministry. The agreement from the beginning is that the interns, no matter how awesome they are, absolutely will not be hired to stay on after the first year. The belief behind this is that interns will learn more if they are exposed to different ministries than if they only experience one church’s way of doing things. The quickest way to learn new things is to be exposed to more experiences. To me, this demonstrates a radical commitment to training and development on the part of the church.
The second way we could kill a youth program, is to have youth leaders who are not committed to learning and growing. For Promise 3, youthworkers will commit to continued learning and growth. The youth worker says:
We promise to have a teachable spirit and seek out ways to grow professionally.
The idea of keeping a teachable spirit is essential. After a few years in the trenches of youth ministry, it’s tempting to put on your “veteran” hat and think you know all you need to know. (This is especially dangerous if you’ve been part of a program that seems “successful.”) What do you do to stay teachable?
Between the YS National Youth Workers Convention and its offshoots, Perkins School of Youth Ministry, Duke’s programs and more, there are quite a few professional seminars and conventions for youth workers. (See also Charles Harrison’s article on trends about lifelong learning.) When we as youth workers agree to this covenant, we agree to seek out training. This can come in many forms – books, websites, seminars and, especially, from networks of youthworkers. What does this look like for you?
In what ways has your church invested in your training and development?
What training resources have you used/would you recommend?
How do you commit to learning and professional development?