You have entered your first ministry! You went through the Bible college classes, completed the internships, gained experience, found a godly woman dedicated to ministry, passed the interview, and accepted the position. Now, after much contemplation and prayer, you finally reached the ministry job you dreamed of since high school graduation. You are the new youth pastor! But what happens now?
Just three weeks ago, this was the state of mind I found myself in. Everything had culminated into exactly what I hoped and prayed for, but how do I get started? How do I adjust not only to the new church culture but also to the new city around me? How do I transition into the youth group? How do I gain respect and begin instituting change? The questions are seemingly endless, and I honestly hold very few of the answers. In the “chaos of change,” God has continued to work, and His character remains the same. Throughout this transition, He has especially taught me three major principles:
#1 Humble Yourself
Romans 12:3 – “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
When us young men enter the ministry, we tend to be filled with a burning passion to jump right into the deep end and begin instituting change. Although passion is both healthy and biblical, unbridled passion can lead us into two major pitfalls. First, we begin to see ourselves as the “savior” of the youth. Though we would never outwardly admit it, we believe our entrance into the ministry becomes the catalyst for its success. We start with good intentions and would never dream of putting ourselves at the center, yet our actions reveal a focus turned inward rather than upward. This prideful pattern of thinking is exactly where I found myself. Therefore, a few essential truths must be understood. The youth group does not need me, but it desperately needs Christ and His beautiful work of love. I do not know best, but Christ and His Word does. Instead of instinctively starting a ministry focusing on our own abilities, we must study the Word, ask questions, seek counsel, and learn from those before us. We must prioritize what is most beneficial for the kids and leaders. Your youth group needs to see your love for Christ, not your own ego.
#2 Find Support
1 Corinthians 12:25-27 – That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
A new ministry can be a lonely place. Even if you are surrounded by the body of Christ, a level of newness and skepticism still lingers. If you are like me, your temptation is to isolate when you are uncomfortable, but God never promises a comfortable ministry. Plus, very few strong connections happen when we hide in our hobbit holes. Therefore, we must allow our new church to become our church body. People may wonder and skeptically watch the “new addition,” but they are not against you. Most importantly, God, the One who led you to this ministry, is for you. To find support, we must be intentional about making connections before and after service, scheduling meals, and getting out of our comfort zone. Certainly, newness can be overwhelming, so be sure to schedule times to call home, text with an old friend, or seek advice from a past mentor/professor/pastor. God does not leave you in your ministry alone.
#3 Plan to Pray
Matthew 6:6 – But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
During my first week as youth pastor, I excitedly wrote out all my ideas, created sermon ideas, and researched big activities. Of course, devising detailed plans is not necessarily wrong, but two essentials were missing. First, I had not built any lasting and connecting relationships with the teens or volunteers. Sure, we exchanged pleasantries and talked a little football, but I have not earned their trust or respect. This takes time! A pastor once told me that “direction is better than speed.” Know where you are going and how to get there before you take off. In reality, it would not be painfully complicated to revamp the entire youth program and schedule all new sermon series and events. But without Christ-centered relationship building and discipleship, these merely become attractions. Instead of focusing on doing, I need to focus on prayerfully leading. This truth leads me to the final missing element of my planning – having a consistent prayer life. Near the end of my second week, I realized that my prayer life was painfully dry. Thankfully, I did pray in a church context and over my devotions. But time committed to removing distractions and wholly surrendering to God’s will was absent. How can I expect the youth group to succeed if I never come before the throne? If we want to see God work and making lasting impact in the youth group, then we must pray!
I have not arrived in youth ministry. Praise the Lord, I never will! Instead, I will need to always rely on God’s gracious working and leading. He cares for our ministries. He desires to see His people evangelize, disciple, and minister to others. He is more invested and works more in our youth groups than we ever could. We may be new to the ministry, but God is not! We must heed the promise of Philippians 2:13, fully trusting that He is working in and through us for His glory. If you surrender the ministry to Him, I promise…more importantly He promises to work! Trust in the perfect record of our perfect God!