The Long Arm of Youth Ministry

Do you ever wonder why you have a job description? I mean, how many times throughout the year do you get asked to do things that are outside the reach of what you were hired to do? If you are like most youth workers, you’re probably working on something this week that isn’t “your job.” Am I right?

Today, I started the first week of a three week long day camp program with my wife, Amy. Really she is the one running the show, I am just along to support her and have fun with the campers. But it got me to thinking how the long arm of youth ministry reaches into many, many areas of ministry that sometimes cause us to leave the youth room all together.

For instance, I am serving on the Audio/Visual Design Team for the new church construction. When we move into the new space, I will likely co-lead the new media ministry team, or at least serve as one of it members. And while this might technically be youth ministry, I help out with our children’s ministry during the fall, winter, and spring. Because we have no one else, I am often the office I.T. guy, answering software and hardware questions when something isn’t working as it should. I have coached two basketball teams and a baseball team. And this summer, along with helping my wife run Day Camp, I will be running my own week of camp later in July.

Then there’s the other jobs that need to get done like landscaper, housekeeper, stock room clerk, sound guy, photographer, videographer, cook, taxi, chaperone, and babysitter. And that’s just the icing. As youth workers, there’s no shortage to what we might do under the banner of “ministry.”

But is this good, or bad? And when is it okay to say yes to something that is technically NOT on our formal job description.

I have three simple rules when considering requests for my time outside my official responsibilities.

1. Will this lead to a greater, future, or potential impact in a student(s) life or in ministry to the student(s)?
Sometimes we are asked to help out in or with another area of ministry such as with the Children’s Ministry, a camp program, VBS, church musical, or school function. When this happens, I consider what the potential impact might be. I ask questions like, Will this open an opportunity for a new relationship with a future student? Could this be the door opening to a greater ministry opportunity? Will this open me up to the possibility of meeting students who might not enter our church on a Sunday morning? Might this be an opportunity to do something within the larger community that could lead to a new family, new student, new student ministry.

This last spring, I was asked to help out at one of the local camps who was hosting a 7th & 8th grade field day for our Jr. High. I thought through these questions and immediately saw the potential. Since I currently work with Sr. High AND Jr. High, I knew that I would see some of my students. That mean’s I would also get to meet some of their friends. And because this was a school function with all of the 7th & 8th grade students attending, I knew I what have the opportunity to have one-on-one face time with more than half of the students of each grade. Does this have potential student ministry impact? You betcha! Did it pay off? Almost immediately! Just spending time with some of my Jr. High students while they were “at school” went a long way.

2. Will this request consume time that I am not willing or able to give, thus hurting my official ministry call?
Time is precious, and something to be guarded. And while it’s sometimes hard to say no to someone who is asking you to “serve”, we have to set priorities and boundaries. Before I say yes, I think about these questions; Why am I being asked to do this thing? How much time will I have to give to complete the task? Do I have the time in my calendar to properly complete the task? Is this something that I can do well? (Meaning, is this something that I have a talent, ability, or special gift for?) Is there someone else more qualified or who has the time and might want to be asked to do such a task instead of me? If there is someone who can do the task, do it better, or is looking to be involved with a ministry, suggest them or help to connect the two.

It’s okay to say yes, but don’t allow your schedule to dictate your life. Life must dictate your schedule.

3. What are my reasons for saying, Yes, and will this request come with a long term commitment?
I am a guy of many interests and talents. As people learn about my interests and talents, I am asked more frequently asked to share my interests and talents. When I started serving at St. Paul’s, I was asked to lead worship every three weeks or so. At first, I thought this would be great; I play the guitar and love leading worship. (Doesn’t all youth pastors?) This would get me in front of the “big people” church. So I said yes!

After four months, my yes turned into a long term headache and my reasons for saying yes weren’t as holy as I had thought. It quickly became a burden having to select worship songs every three weeks or so. There were deadlines for when the songs and lyrics needed to be printed in the bulletin. There was the scheduling of rehearsals and the calls to recruit other musicians. And after playing all my favorites, I had to start learning new material…I’m not a real good guitar player so learning new music was tough!

I said yes because I wanted people to know me; to say I was a great worship leader, and that my choice of songs moved them. Leading worship was more than a one and done deal. I broke all the rules I set for myself.

As you serve your church, know the dangers that sometimes lurk just around the corner. Your yes just might be your biggest regret. So take the time to pray about what they are asking. If God wants you to do it, He give you a great ministry impact, the time to do it and do it well, and all your reasons will be right.

What questions/rules do you ask yourself when some one come to you with a request? Share you comments, thoughts, suggestions, ideas, and stories!

– jay

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