A youth minister is someone who is educated in theology and religion and works with children and teenagers in a church. Youth ministry combines education, community giving and outreach and religion/worship. Activities that a youth minister may be involved in are traveling, summer Bible studies, mission trips, teaching or leading a congregation of children or teenagers, educating children or teenagers, recruiting new congregation members and volunteer services.
A youth minister is required to have a bachelor’s degree. They usually take courses in child psychology, religious studies or philosophy, family psychology, and studies, as well as communication. Youth ministers are also experienced in leading a congregation and have effective communication and social skills. They are experienced in working with younger people and understand what children and teenagers need. A youth minister is also required to know the scripture and have their own perspective or understanding of it. A youth minister is also abreast of youth culture in order to communicate with younger people. A youth minister should be an effective communicator, most especially public speaking.
Youth ministers should be devoted to their career. Sometimes they are required to work off the clock—beyond just Sunday services. If younger people need someone to speak to late at night or during the week, youth ministers must be available to them. Part of being a youth minister is knowing how to handle difficult situations or circumstances. If a congregation is made of some children who struggle with family issues, social problems, learning disorders, behavioral issues or psychological disorders. A disciplined background in these types of problems will help youth ministers become better at their job.
As a youth minister, you have the freedom to set your own goals, priorities and type of ministry you want to design. In case you need some ideas, you have a few common examples of youth ministry there are. There are three basic types:
1) Drop-in Youth Ministry
One is the “drop-in” type. This is a ministry that is designed to get children off the streets, give them activities to keep themselves occupied with, and keep them in a safe space for the time being. Counseling and social welfare is a part of this kind of ministry. As a youth minister of a drop-in type of ministry, you have to be socially savvy, understand youth culture, be skilled in handling child and teen psychology, behavioral problems, and be a comfortable and approachable person to children.
Drop-in youth ministries often involve sports or some sort of physical activity where children and relieve stress or tension. Computer games are also common. There are usually lounges and workshops for people to communicate, interact and socialize. This type of ministry also works as a catalyst for social services, especially when there are children whose lives are in danger or in conditions that require outside assistance.
A reason for being involved in a drop-in type of youth service is because you have a passion for helping disadvantaged youths. You must be able to handle stressful or tense situations gracefully. Drop-in youth ministry has been criticized in the past for its resource, time and energy consumption. It requires space or a venue, as well, for children and teens to gather.
2) Entertainment Youth Ministry
An entertainment youth ministry is a special alternative to secular or mainstream entertainment, which is designed access the youth and lead them in a direction that is close to the scriptures. Entertainment youth ministry keeps kids and teens off the street, away from drugs and alcohol, and offers a social activity to keep younger people occupied.
An entertainment youth ministry involves lots of games, travel on weekends or in the summer, movie nights, and theme nights involving plays, skits, dance, dinner or other fun and entertaining engagements. Entertainment youth ministry will give the congregation members key roles or functions in their church community as a youth group government.
Entertainment youth ministries often struggle to compete with secular forms of entertainment. At some point, teens especially grow out of church games and activities. This ministry also requires a lot of resources and are often costly. Youth ministers who are funny and easy to talk to tend to do well with entertainment youth ministries.
3) Biblical Youth Ministry
Biblical youth ministries usually keep activities close to the scriptures. They teach the values of the Bible, the meaning of the scripture and encourage children and teens to live out religious values. Often, these values tend to be counter to the secular culture. It is challenging in this aspect as younger people often want to fit into their peer groups at school or outside of the church.
Biblical youth ministries hold Bible studies or gatherings that are centered around Bible discussions. Some will have games around bible scriptures. Missionaries and recruitment of new members to the church are also part of this type of ministry. Some of the struggles that biblical youth ministries deal with is boredom or being seen as unattractive by outside groups. It is an important ministry for youth ministers who value scriptures and seek to make a positive impact with them on young people.
As long as you are devoted to the idea of combining your religious beliefs with helping and leading the youth into a better and successful life, you will have some impact on your ministry. Some tips on having an impact as a youth minister is to first prepare the following:
1) Have a place to meet. Whether it’s a church or a community space—a specific location where people know where to find your ministry and feel safe is in is critical to organizing and building a congregation.
2) Share the news. Part of being a youth minister is finding new recruits. As long as you know of a way to access the youth, you’ll have a way to build a congregation. Some young people would be glad to know that there’s a ministry out there that can be of some help or service to them.
3) Do some ice breaking. Young people are often pensive or anxious when meeting new people. It’s perfectly natural for people to have their guards up among strangers. You can do some ice breaking games or have a discussion with your group to get the young people socializing with one another.
4) Give the young people a voice. Youth ministry is knowing and understanding the youth. Young people are often frustrated because they don’t have much of a say or control over their own lives. If you create a setting or a space where young people can express themselves, you’ll be doing them a service just by doing that alone. As a youth minister, you also have the role to influence them positively. If children or teens say something that seems like the beginning of something great, encourage them. If they share a touchy topic or something difficult with you, respect their privacy and show your support by letting them know that what they tell you is between the both of you, and be sure to honor this promise. Young people are just as entitled to their own privacy as adults. Unless they are in immediate danger, be sure to support them by being a good listener, then discuss options that he or she may have in order to improve their circumstances.