If you are thinking about getting involved as a youth worker or you are already there, you probably feel as if you are called to be a youth worker. Just because God placed a desire to work with Christian teens on your heart does not mean that you don’t need to grow as a worker.
Whether you’ve had 10 years of youth leadership experience or are just getting started, it’s always good to know which areas of leadership are growth areas. Here are the five major characteristics of a great youth worker.
The God-Centered Heart
It probably doesn’t need to be said, but if you are going to be working with Christian teens you should be a Christian yourself. This doesn’t mean that you have to be the most knowledgeable Christian in the world, but you do need to have some understanding of your faith and you need to have a heart centered on God.
An effective youth worker will be able to demonstrate their own relationship with God as an example for teens. It is hard to teach someone something you do not do yourself. The philosophy “Do as I do, not as I say,” doesn’t go very far with teenagers. Devotions, daily prayer time, and daily Bible reading will help you grow in your relationship with God and provide support in working in youth leadership.
The Servant Heart
The servant heart is also important. Youth ministry takes a lot of work. You will most likely need to be available to help set-up, clean-up, and attend events beyond regular services. Youth pastors often need a lot of help in planning and executing youth ministry events.
Without a servant’s heart you are not setting a Christian example to your students. Being a servant is a huge part of being a Christian. Christ was a servant to man, and He called people to be servants to one another. It does not mean you have to be a slave to ministry, but you need to come ready to help out whenever possible.
Adolescence is hard, and Christian teens are no different. Just because they are Christians does not mean that they do not go through trials and tribulations like everyone else. A great youth worker is there for the students. He or she has big shoulders that can handle tears, laughter, introspection, and more. As a youth worker you carry the weight of what is going on in your students’ lives.
Youth workers need to have empathy for the students they work with. Empathy is being able to put yourself in the student’s shoes. You also need to have good listening skills. It is not okay to just hear what a student is saying. You should listen actively and ask questions. A lot of what teens say is “between the lines.”
A great youth worker is available for students anytime. This does not mean sacrificing a personal life, as you need to set boundaries, but it does mean that if a student calls you in crisis at 2am, it is par for the course. Teen angst does not just happen between the hours of 9 to 5.
A Sense of Responsibility and Authority
Being responsible is a huge part of being an effective youth worker. You are a leader, and responsibility comes with the territory. You are responsible for certain tasks, supervision, and being an example. You need to be authoritative enough to keep students in line. Just because a teen is a Christian does not mean they make the best decisions.
As a responsible and authoritative youth worker you need to set boundaries that show there is a line between you being a student’s friend and leader. Certain acts require that you contact parents and pastors. Certain actions mean that you have to stand up to a teen to tell him or her she is doing wrong.
A Positive Attitude
There is nothing more damaging to youth ministry than a cranky leader. If you complain the entire time, your students will start to associate negative traits with the youth group and church as a whole. Even in the worst of times you need to be able to put on a calm face. Keep your focus on the good in every situation. Yes, it is hard sometimes, but as a leader you need to keep your students focused in the right direction.
There is a lot of responsibility when you become a youth leader. By learning to enhance the top 5 characteristics of a great youth leader, you can become an example to the students and other leaders. Your youth group will reap the rewards as your group grows. Take the time to find areas in which you can learn and grow as a leader.
Psalm 78:5 – “He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children,” (NIV)