Two big reasons people avoid youth ministry are fear and ignorance.
Fear of failure, rejection, appearing foolish or boring, being disrespected, not knowing how to handle a group, not knowing what to say, and all that. Fearful stuff.
And the ignorance part? Not knowing what to do! I can’t picture what value I bring or how it will work. What will I do with them? I don’t even know how to talk to students. All I get is The Big Silence or one-word answers . . .
One of our couples just went through this. Their church assigns leaders to each of the classes — a woman for the girls and a man for the guys. By early October no one had yet taken the freshmen. Four years of investment, four years of influence for Christ. What an opportunity.
The wife knew just what to do. Listen to them, love them, pray for them, talk with them. But the guy is thinking, “I don’t know what to do with freshmen boys. I don’t play sports and I’m not a standup comedian. What do I have that they want?”
But there they stood, leaderless. So here’s what he did:
1. He prayed. “God, I am your servant. And those boys are your men. If You want my influence in their lives, I’ll do it. But please show me what to do because I have no idea and it fills me with dread.”
2. He gathered ideas. He talked to his wife, his good friend who works with youth, and a couple guys in the church who are doing a great job with the upperclassmen. They encouraged him and told him to just ease into it — God would lead and the students would slowly open up.
3. He got the boys names and began praying for them. Specifically by name, and daily.
4. He made a list of what could happen in four years. They could become men of God. They could become strong male role models. And they could set the tone and culture of this youth group in just a year or two.
5. He made simple questionnaires to learn how to pray for them and where to invest in their spiritual strength (click here for sample).
6. He began talking to the dads to get them involved. Give a five-minute speech on how you got saved or what the manliness training was like in the Marines. Join us for a day trip to hike the dunes and make a bonfire. Teach us some skill you know so we can all get better at it. That kind of stuff. (Click here for another sample.)
7. He’s trusting God. All you can do is surrender and begin. God will need to lead it from here. But getting the ball rolling makes a big difference in turning dread . . . to influence.
This is just one guy’s story, but the principles are sound. God will clearly grow and direct anyone who makes himself available.