Excellence. This might be the most important and most difficult to define promise of the We Love Our Youth Worker (WLOYW) covenant. Here’s what the employer promises to the youth worker:
We will strive to be an excellent employer.
We believe that it’s important to have clear structures and procedures for recruiting and employing a youth worker, and to provide supportive management structures.
We promise to follow good practice guidelines in the way we employ our youth worker.
What does it really mean to be an excellent employer?
Sometimes it’s easier to define what something is when you point out what it is not. Let’s begin with what would not make an excellent employer. Borrowing from “The Three Signs of Miserable Job,”* a miserable job delivers anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement to it’s employees. Sounds simple enough, so let’s break it down.
Anonymity – You have been uniquely called to the youth ministry at your church. You – complete with your own gifts, talents and interests. Yet, instead of embracing your “youness,” many youth workers are cast into the role of “Youth Director,” and along with the role comes certain expectations (some stated, some implied) from the pastor, congregants, parents and students. Is there anything more miserable than being expected to do all the things a former youthworker did…even if you don’t like to do those things? An excellent employer takes the time to discover your talents for ministry and helps you build a ministry around your skills.
Part of fighting anonymity is being truly known. What does your employer know about you? Does your church know about what you like to do for fun? An excellent employer is interested in who you are as a whole person and celebrates what makes you unique.
Irrelevance – A miserable employer will (unintentionally) communicate that what you do doesn’t really matter…or will downplay the value of youth ministry through emphasizing other great ministry accomplishments in the church. Irrelevance means you will be treated as if you have a second-class ministry job, you won’t be invited to lunch with the clergy, and you will be compensated accordingly. Irrelevance means you don’t get proper credit for the work that you do. Either someone else takes the credit or your work is behind the scenes. There is no public recognition of your accomplishments.
An excellent employer celebrates the value and contributions of your ministry and offers compensation and rewards accordingly.
Immeasurement – I often ask youth workers, “what are the measurements for success or failure in your youth ministry?” Can this even be clearly defined in youth ministry? It’s a challenge in the profession of “making disciples” to gauge success or failure.
Given that youth ministry success is hard to quantify, one measurement that’s common for employers to use is your attendance numbers. Perhaps your employer expects you to increase the number of students in attendance by 25% in the next 3 months. That’s a specific, measurable goal – but is this kind of goal that truly measures your effectiveness and your ability to equip disciples? An excellent employer will work with you to create clear ministry goals in line with your mission – finding ways of measuring how well you are equipping disciples and how well students are growing in their faith.
Like all of the We Love Our Youth Worker promises, there is a second part of the promise. As an employee, you promise:
We will strive to be an excellent employee.
We promise to manage our time effectively, work hard and operate within the context of the leaders overseeing our ministry.
Let’s face it – you have been hired to do the job of youth ministry. To be excellent at youth ministry, you have some basic obligations to meet. It’s not exhaustive, but here are a few ways you can have excellence in your role:
You need to be prepared – that means having your lessons planned and having papers and supplies ready. There really is no excuse for “winging it.”
You need to communicate goals and activities clearly to all the people of your ministry – that means staff, parents, students and volunteers. You can never communicate too much. An excellent employee uses multiple channels to make sure they are clearly communicating (email, texts, announcements, postcards, websites, meetings, flyers, etc.) If this is your area of weakness, start by recruiting volunteers that can help you with the specific task of communication.
You need to be present in all areas of your life. This means you need to be present at work for a determined amount of office hours and to be present with the youth. It also means you need to prioritize your family life and be present for them too.
You need to be a role model for your students, living in a way that is sustainable long-term. This means to be an excellent youth ministry employee, you need to take care of your own physical, mental and spiritual health by doing basic things like exercising, learning and resting.
Please leave a comment – I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
In what ways is your employer doing “excellence” well?
What are the measurements of success or failure in your ministry? How clearly are they defined?
What would you add to these lists of ways employers or employees could be excellent?
*The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, by Patrick Lencioni, 2007. This book is a must read, by the way.
Artwork is courtesy of www.snorgtees.com. Used by permission.