Welcome to today’s edition of our current series, Real Life Youth Ministry! Each week we are sharing the story of someone doing Youth Ministry somewhere around the world. We all need encouragement in ministry at times. And sharing stories is one way we can encourage others on their journey. The Devil loves to bring discouragement, confusion, and make us feel like we’re not doing a good job or just aren’t good enough to be used by God. But the Bible says,
“And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.” –Revelation 12:11
That’s why it’s so important to share our stories! This week we have a bonus story from Jeremy in Invercargill, New Zealand. He is doing Youth Ministry full time at his church; he’s hilarious, passionate about his job, and full of wisdom. Be encourged as you read his story! Welcome, Jeremy!
Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up in Youth Ministry.
I’m a 38 year old teenager, who’s being doing youth work for almost 20 years, with two kids, a wife and a mortgage. Originally from South Africa, now living in New Zealand. I started out as a volunteer, then did two years as part-time youth worker and never looked back. I have always had a passion for the gospel, and loved working with young people since I was a teenager. Always felt like a natural fit! Never wanted to do anything else, I love youth ministry!
What does a typical Youth night look like for you?
We have a Tuesday mid-week meeting from 7-9pm in our church auditorium. A typical night involves worship, prayer, small groups and an activity. To be honest it’s fairly chaotic but heaps of fun! We generally do worship & small groups before an activity, but have been known to mix it up a bit. Every three weeks we do ‘Boys & Girls Groups’ where we split them up, and meet in homes around town.
What is something your ministry does well and how did that come about?
Not sure I’d claim it as what we do well, but we’re trying to do discipleship better. Rather than trying to do discipleship at our mid-week meeting, we’ve invited anyone who’s interested to join a group that meets fortnightly at one of our key leaders homes. This group follows a curriculum that is more focused on deepening their relationship with God, and it great to see young people grappling with some of the big faith issues, and finding ways to serve. This has helped us focus attention on young people with a desire to grow, which was to hard to do at our mid-week meetings before, and allow leaders to deepen relationships one-on-one.
Do you have any funny stories to share?
I probably need to set this up for you. In Southland there is a big town (or townie) and rural divide. Those who grew up rural, tend to think of themselves as harder or more resilient than us ‘townies’ who cry at the slightest broken nail, or drop of rain. So with that in mind one of my first planned events was a outdoor paintball night during summer in Southland, a light drizzle set in about an hour before kick off, and I gently suggested to some of young people that we may have to reschedule because of the weather. To which the reply was from one of our rural brethren: ‘*cough cough TOWNIE!*cough cough’… Needless to say we went paint balling and got drenched.
What was your biggest challenge initially, and how did you overcome it?
I think my biggest challenge recently is realising that I’m not a kid any more. It’s really easy as a young youth worker to relate to kids, you just do crazier and crazier things, and you have so much more time for ministry or just hanging out. The older you get the less ‘cool’ you become, your family creates greater demands on your time, it’s harder to be crazy and sometimes you have to work harder to relate to young people. I’m enjoying youth work now, much more than I did as a young adult because I have more skills (both personal & professional) and I don’t feel like I always have to be the fun crazy one.
What keeps you going when you’re feeling frustrated, worn down, or just want a night off?
My sense of call. I know that this is what God has asked me to do, so when the going gets tough, when things aren’t working well, I try to remember that this wasn’t my idea in the first place, that although I’m not perfect (and won’t be anytime soon) that God is the one who put me here, and that if I listen for his voice then it might just work out OK.
Any words of advice you’d give to others starting out in Youth Ministry?
Do a few things really really really well. Focus on relationships NOT programs. Stop counting kids! Have fun. The temptation is to try and do it all, be everything to everyone, but that’s impossible. Trust your team, build into them and you’ll have five or ten people doing your job. (Maybe even better!)
And keep learning. If you want to do this long term as paid staff or as a volunteer, become a life-long learner, read books, take a seminary/bible college course; do whatever it takes to stay fresh and excited. Set yourself professional development goals, and find someone to keep you accountable to them. Nothing funny about a pastor/youth worker/volunteer who hasn’t learnt anything new in 10 years!
–Jeremy, Invercargill (New Zealand)