It’s not always easy navigating through youth ministry, helping to guide young people on their faith journey and to learn more about God. Ministry to Youth has made a list of 8 common mistakes to avoid in youth ministry, based on feedback from youth leaders around the world.
Mistake #1: Emphasising friendship over leadership
It is important to build relationships with students, but not at the cost of honest discipleship, accountability and being a mentor for young people that you lead. Hard conversations will need to be had as well as telling them the truth that they need to hear. Building relationships with young people in youth ministry shouldn’t be about friendship, but allowing it to be a doorway to being a mentor and role model.
Mistake #2: It worked in the past, it will work in the present too
Just because something worked in the past, it doesn’t mean it will work in the present. The same concept applies to what works at one church won’t necessarily work at another church. What this means is that sometimes you will have to be open to stepping outside of the box and your comfort zone, try new things, and allow room to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
Mistake #3: Being entertaining in youth ministry
Don’t try to entertain your youth group, but look to be creative in how you teach God’s word because that’s what will last and is worthwhile. A youth group offers meaning, truth and real relationships. Young people kind find fun and entertaining in other places, but students show up to your youth group because they want something bigger than that, to be connected to Jesus. At the end of the day you will be teaching them what it means to follow Jesus and pointing them to God. Of course fun and entertainment are a part of youth ministry, but not the main priority.
Mistake #4: “When I was your age…”
Things are different and although sharing your struggles and experiences are helpful, don’t limit dialogue and teachings to just that. Recognise that there are similarities and differences in experiences you’ve had and the experiences young people face today.
Mistake #5: No need to build relationships with parents
Parent’s are not your enemy, but your allies. Take time to build relationships not just with students, but also with their parents. As a youth ministry leader you’re juggling so much; you’re planning events, leading services, building a team of volunteers. Building relationships with parents, resourcing and equipping them, and allowing them to walk along side the youth ministry helps with the spiritual development of your young people.
Mistake #6: Avoiding deep theological discussions
Young people are actually capable of absorbing and understanding big and deep theological truths. When they understand the why, they can readily make applications to their lives. Also never underestimate how the Holy Spirit works within young people. Don’t be afraid, you are there to teach and then step out of the way and let God do His thing!
Mistake #7: Taking things personal
Don’t take things too personal, thinking that you are the problem when really it’s not about you. Sure, there are times it might be your problem, it’s good to be open to that, but most of the time it isn’t personal. Just be ready to listen to them or have a conversation with them when appropriate, in a loving and supporting way.
Mistake #8: You know everything
You don’t have all the answers. Be open to learning from young people just as much as they learn from you. Don’t think that you are superior to students and that they can’t teach you anything. That you know where they’re coming from or know what they are going through. Be flexible in your scheduling, teaching style and subject matter. Make sure to approach your teaching role with humility.
Watch Ministry to Youth’s video on 8 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Youth Ministry below
Ofa Foiakau is the Field Officer (Central/West), and Youth/High School ministry leader as a part of the PULSE team.