5 Ways Senior Pastors Can Support Youth and… | UMC YoungPeople
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May 2020

5 Ways Senior Pastors Can Support Youth and Children Minister

By Kirsten Knox

The ripple effects of this global pandemic are significant and extensive. As a pastor, you have felt that. You are learning to do ministry differently. You have also been feeling the pain of your people and ministry team as you walk with them through this time.

One thing is sure – you cannot do this alone. And whether you have a volunteer team or paid staff members, supporting them well in this season is critical. Here are five ways you can support your youth and children’s ministry team and help them reach their potential, especially in this season of crisis.

1. Ask how they are doing rather than what they are doing

A significant part of children and youth ministry is caring for those they lead. Who cares for these leaders as they care for others? Particularly in seasons of crisis, it is essential that these ministry leaders feel cared for by the church leadership. Pastors, when you meet with your team, you can support them by focusing on how they are doing.

Great questions to ask are, “how are you feeling the pressure of this season?” “Where are you feeling stressed?” “What fears are you navigating through?” “What simple pleasures are you enjoying in this season?”

The key here is to focus first on how they are doing, not what they are doing. Caring for your team outside of personnel performance is enormous. Many of us in ministry struggle to find our value and worth outside of what we do. Pastors can play a powerful role in helping those they lead to separate the two.

2. Be vulnerable with them

As the leader of the church during a global pandemic, you are also facing significant challenges and change. No one has done this before. You didn’t pull out a “global pandemic ministry model” file and think, “this is exactly what we are going to do.” You have experimented, used trial and error, and sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This crisis has been a stressful time for you, as well as for them.

Let the team know how you are feeling. Let them hear your challenges, where you feel overwhelmed, and your insecurities in this season. This action will help them feel like they are not alone, and that you all are in this together. You’ll most likely find common ground and have the opportunity to link arms together to lead your congregation.

3. Highlight their strengths

When virtual ministry is at an all-time high and so visible on social media, it is easy to get caught in the trap of the comparison game. When we get stuck in this trap, we lose. We aren’t comparing apples to apples. We compare others’ highlight reel to our everyday life. One practical way you can help your team move through this trap is by highlighting their strengths.

Highlighting their strengths will do a couple of things. First, it will be a much needed source of encouragement for them. When our supervisor believes in us, we become more confident and free to try new things. Second, it will give them permission to leverage their strengths and not feel pressured to do what “everyone else is doing.” Third, it will allow them to think contextually and creatively about your congregation. Your team will begin asking questions like, “what do our people need?” “What strengths and assets do we have to meet those needs?”

4. Ask how can I help you?

This simple question communicates deep value! It demonstrates your willingness to help, your investment level in what they are doing, and simply that the work they are doing is worth your time also. You are saying it matters, and I am on your team. Your question may encourage brainstorming as your leaders share some of the “gaps” they see in your ministry context. You will find ways you can link arms with them, as well as how you can use your influence to meet these needs.

Recently, I was recruiting adult leaders for the youth ministry in my church. The pastor suggested someone in the congregation. He asked the person and shared his belief in their ability to make a difference in the lives of students. The pastor’s faith in her made a huge difference in her confidence to serve in the youth ministry. It made my follow up ask easy, and now she is one of our weekly adult leaders.

5. Provide Professional Development

Budgets are tight, and that means you have to prioritize spending and think strategically. In times of budget constraints, it is valuable to consider both the short-term and long-term. The professional development of your team brings immediate and long-lasting results. Using funds, no matter how large or small, from your limited budget on your youth or children’s minister will play a significant role in your ability to impact generations.

Your investment will also keep your team stable. People stay and serve more passionately if they feel like their leaders care about their development. Think beyond a one-time training and instead consider consistent development opportunities.

One excellent resource is the Youth Ministry Institute Online (YMI Online). Since 2005, the Youth Ministry Institute has led the way in providing training for youth, children, and family ministers. Using their time-tested and proven curriculum, the Youth Ministry Institute has launched an interactive learning platform that gives youth and family ministers around the world a chance to develop their leadership skills. As a way to help the local church during this challenging season, the Youth Ministry Institute is currently offering a limited-time free course. More information regarding these courses can be found at https://online.yminstitute.com/.

Caring for the people in your congregation begins by supporting your team. A team of five people, three people or even two, can accomplish significantly more than a single person. So whether you have a large paid staff or a small team of volunteers, we hope that you will consider investing in their development. Your team and your congregation need you to show pastoral and professional concern for those who serve beside you.