Well, this week is the week when summer is officially over and the school year begins. For most of us in youth ministry this is our kick off week. At least it is for me. With this in mind, I thought I would spend the next few posts offering some wisdom for anyone of you who is starting out in youth ministry.

Now I need to be clear on one thing—when I started out in youth ministry I did not have a clue about what to do. I had energy and a passion for Jesus, and that was about it. Hopefully in the next few posts I can give you just a bit of a “leg up” and help make the next few months go smoothly for you.

There are three key areas that you need be very clear on:

Who you are (your gifts, what you can do, what you can’t)

What you hope to do in the next year or three

How you hope to do it

Having a firm grasp on these three areas will make your life go a bit more smoothly. (I am going to assume that you, dear reader, have some self-awareness of who you are, what gifts you have and don’t have etc. I am going to assume that you also have some people around you who are honest and can speak truth into your life. A good mentor who is familiar with youth ministry is going to be a real help here!)

Who you are

While we know God is sovereign and can do anything, we have a “sober judgment” of ourselves (Romans 12:3). Do not bite off more than you can chew, nor should you underestimate your abilities and giftedness. This is where close friends, or a wise marriage partner are crucial.

For example, if you are a naturally gifted evangelist, this will no doubt make up some part of your ministry. If you aren’t, you may not want to program in a big push on evangelistic growth, just yet. If you are a good upfront speaker, you will want this to be a key part of your program. If you aren’t, you will either find someone else who is, or you will build your teaching time around small groups.

The key here is to really, truly have a grounding in who you are and what you can achieve. I have seen far too many people in youth ministry who really should have been librarians instead. (Just to be clear, I’m not knocking those of you who are librarians, it was the simply the best profession I could come up with to contrast with youth ministry. I love librarians where would we be without them?)

Keep in mind that you will grow and pick up skills and new abilities as you mature in your ministry. Right now we are focusing on the first year. With this in mind, be clear on your abilities.

What you hope to do in the next year or two

The people (and youth) in your church want two things: 1. They want you to listen to them and lovingly hear their needs, wants, goals, struggles etc. 2. They want you to lead them; helping them to encounter Jesus and his people on a deep level.

It is your job to formulate some plan that will facilitate this. I will write more on this later but you must walk the tightrope of crafting a program with your group in mind and providing a new program that is effective in building Christian maturity.

How you hope to do it

The last one is pretty obvious isn’t it? You need to have a plan. Hopefully you have been trained somewhere along the path as to the “hows” of youth ministry. Needless to say this is the big question isn’t it! This will be the focus of the next few posts. To get us started, however, let me suggest two books that are very helpful, if not crucial for the new youth leader both of them are by Mark DeVries:

Sustainable Youth Ministry

The Indispensible Youth Pastor

Next we will look at first steps in your first year.