Teachers teach. Writers write. Singers sing. Leaders lead. Youthworkers…..do youthy stuff etc. See the problem?
Now I sing, but I certainly am not a singer by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, if you have stood next to me in Church, you have probably wished I didn’t actually sing. Now, there is a chance I could actually get a job someday and a Song-Consultant. But that title will never make me able to sing.
I know managers in the secular world who can’t deal with people or problems. The title does not help them. The “leadership” section of the bookstore is crowding out the “self-help” section these days and yet our culture seems to be struggling for leaders. In the Church there is a lot of talk about developing principled leaders but there is also a counter voice saying we should just be followers (I am honored to have previewed a copy of my friend Len Sweet’s new book- I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus ISBN 9780849946387)
In our craft of Youthwork I have seen folks with all kinds of titles. Actually I have had all kinds of titles myself. My favorite was when I was Youth Minister for Spiritual Formation on a large Student Ministry Staff. My least favorite was being The Director of Student Ministry of that same staff because 1) real Youth Ministry is Youth Directed (meaning the Youth are in charge), and 2) the title showed that I was no longer primarily a Youthworker but that I was a bureaucrat in charge of budgets, volunteers, busses, hotel reservations, finance meetings, staff development, office design (yes we had a campus relocation to add to the fun), well you get the picture. I really just wanted to hang out with Youth and hear about what God was doing in their lives and serve those on the margins in mission side by side with the Youth. But “Directors” don’t get to do that as much as “Youthworkers” do.
I am often asked, “What does it take to be a Youthworker?” My answer is simple: 1) Love God, 2) Love Teenagers. If you are not certain about whether you love God, hang out with youth long enough and you learn to unconditionally love The God of the ENTIRE Universe! If you are unsure about whether you love teenagers, bring your Love of God with you and in about 30 days of hanging out with Youth, both you and I will know if you are going to ever love teens.
Most Youthworkers don’t ever have a title. They just walk alongside Youth doing all they can to help prepare them spiritually for life and to help give them life skills they will need in their adult lives. Most of these wonderful folks would never tell you they even think of themselves as Youthworkers. So I want to take a minute and ask for everyone reading this to give thanks to God for those good people who have no title who make all the difference in the world for a young person.
You know, when I think about it, the greatest leaders I have ever known certainly didn’t have the word “leader” in their title. The books in the bookstore didn’t help them lead either. Those who care about young people don’t do it because they read in a book that it was a good idea. They do it because God wired them in such a way that they see young people for who they are and for Whose they are. They see the Image that young person was created in. And that makes ALL the difference.
“God, thank you for all of your Youthworkers. They give so much and they often never hear a thank you. I would not be here today without the Youthworkers in my life. So thank you for blessing me with them. I know you are a Good God because I have met your Youthworkers face to face and I have seen your Image in their eyes and smiles and in the way they care for Youth. I am grateful. Amen.”
Charles W. Harrison