Shandri joined the Salvation Army's Territorial Youth Team in 2009 as the Youth Leadership Coordinator after spending 9 years as a youth pastor in the local church. She is married to Nathaniel and loves being a part of the Miranda Salvos team. Shandri is passionate about overseas mission trips, gourmet pizzas,radical honesty and seeing youth leaders make less mistakes than she has in youth ministry.
Earlier this year one of the youth leaders at our church rang me to ask if they could borrow a wii for Friday night. My answer…”Seriously?! What did you do with the wii the youth group owns?” A confused pause was followed by, “We own a wii??!” This leader had not been told that the youth group actually has a wii, games, sports equipment and half a bottle of orange cordial (all helpful things to know). Yes, their curiosity should have sent them prowling but it is also info the pastor could have shared as this leader started her ministry.
To save yourself from this moment here’s a few of the many questions it could be helpful to ask your pastor as you start in your role. Make sure to leave your own suggestions in the comments section too.
Employed youth workers:
What hours am I expected to be in the office?
How do you anticipate me prioritising tasks? Which items on this job description should fill the majority of my hours?
What resources does the church have that I can access for youth ministry? (sports equipment?, church van?, craft materials?, building space?)
Who are the prayer warriors in this church?
Is there anyone in the church family that I should not ask to join the youth team or have in direct contact with youth? (people convicted or accused of mistreatment of children?)
Is there a weekly/monthly/annual budget for the youth ministry?
What kind of things are considered work costs and what is the process for reimbursement?
How often would you like to meet together?
What would you like included in my monthly youth ministry report?
Define what success looks like for my role and our ministry in 1 year.
Volunteer youth workers:
Do you have a job description for this role?
What is your vision for the youth ministry?
What support is available to me as a volunteer leader? Should I expect prayer support? Pastoral Care visits? Training and resources?
Who should I call if I can’t fulfill my responsibilites due to sickness?
What is the process for buying necessary resources?
What checks do I need to go through in order to work with young people?
Am I required to have a first aid certificate?
What is the leader / young person ratio required for an event and what should we do when we don’t have enough leaders?
What kind of things do you want to have immediately reported to you? (injuries? salvations? holes in the wall?)
We have a gifted biblical scholar on our team by the name of Steve who found his perfect verse today for a lesson on sanitation he is preparing for children. It’s here below for those keen for such a verse:
Deuteronomy 23:12-14 (NIV)
12 Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. 13 As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. 14 For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.
Certainly we were all impressed with the appropriateness of his chosen verse but more interesting to me was recognising how often these little-known verses would be spoken of (except for a few guys to have a chuckle at).
While this might not be the perfect verse for your next theme, here’s a few reasons why you should preach Deut 23 (a symbol of all ‘random’ verses):
I can’t think of a single teenage boy whose ears wouldn’t prick to attention when hearing that tonight’s sermon is called ‘Cover your poo’.
You will be forced to dig a little deeper than a Sunday school understanding to get the real gold out of this verse. It’s a great challenge to get the timely truth from this gem.
It may sort out a few sanitation issues of your own at youth group camp.
Without taking a broad look at what has been taught and preached to your young people you may find they have heard solely from the gospel of Mark for the last 2 yrs. Mix it up and show them that there are good reasons to read the whole Bible.
When I began in youth ministry I thought parents were the most infuriating of creatures. It seemed so many of them had unrealistic expectations and I was never entirely sure how much I should be communicating with them. After all, anything their kid shares at youth is confidential, right?
After a few years I finally understood that having the parents supportive of our youth ministry and happy with our leaders made a huge difference in the health of our youth ministry. Perhaps not everyone wants to have a healthy youth ministry though. Maybe you like the comfort of frustration, so here are a few guaranteed ways to tick-off parents. I’ve tried them, they work.
Wait until the last minute to promote an event, especially if it will cost big to be there. We all know that if you are super spontaneous you are more spirit-led so go ahead and give families 24hrs notice for the must-attend event of the year. Parents love this stuff!
Make starting and ending times a flexible concept. It can be frustrating when kids are dropped off or picked up late by parents so why not add another level to the game? Keep them guessing as to what times things will really start and end. If your website promises a program ends at 7.30pm then aim to end it somewhere before 9pm. That’s close enough.
Choose to communicate important themes, events, and directions to young people only. Assume that no parent is truly interested in the discipleship of their child so keep all youth group news, prayer points, success stories, life group themes to yourself. If you do happen to share something with a parent do it quickly, as a passing thought and keep it to just one parent of a divorced couple.
Advocate great new plans, ideas and strategies but never, ever finish what you sta…..
Have you ever considered doing some ministry training? Maybe it has seemed inaccessible, too time consuming or you just didn’t know where to look for it.
If you are that person you might just want to brace yourself for this exciting news.
Booth College (The Salvation Army’s Mission & Theological Training College) is offering some great subjects and courses that can help you grow in your leadership and build a healthier ministry model…including Youth Ministry Subjects being offered for the first time at diploma and bachelor level!!!
You can do these subjects as part of a Diploma of Theology, Bachelor of Theology or just for audit (all the great learning without the pressure of assignments or taking on a whole qualification).
In other great news for youth leaders, study through Booth College can be done online. Distance study is a great option for those juggling work and church ministry already.
The first Youth Minisry subject is offered in semester 2, with others following throughout future semesters but check out the college today. Get in touch. Ask about your study options. Don’t miss out on Issues in Youth Ministry, Semester 2.
There are so many different expressions of youth ministry throughout our churches and communities and not one looks exactly like the other. Involvement in youth ministry is for the young and the young-at-heart. It’s for people who really love doing crazy things and it’s for those who love administrative tasks. There is no set mould for a great youth leader. There is no perfect personality type that is the goal of those in ministry.
There has never been a set program that details how a super successful youth ministry must run. Different people, programs, events and strategies work in different communities and it is worth celebrating. As long as you are involved in the discipleship of a young person you are in youth ministry. Check out the stories of these great youth leaders. God is doing great things through each of them.
“Is there any challenge in your life right now that is large enough that you have no hope of doing it apart from God’s help? If not, consider the possibility that you are seriously under challenged.” (John Ortberg)
God longs to give our hearts big dreams, humungous dreams…you know the ginormous ones that make you wet your pants a little. When our lives are overcome by God-sized dreams He gets the glory for every little part of it being achieved, not us.
God-given dreams stretch our imagination, and ultimately ourselves. They inspire us to share them with others and they actually force us to include others. The amazing thing about envisaging something way beyond your own capabilities is that it highlights the incredible capability of God.
Are the dreams and visions you have for your youth ministry easily achieved? Can you see how to bring it to completion? If so, those dreams are too small.
Instagram is fun. You can post pictures of every stylin’ coffee you’ve bought from legendary baristas who mastered their craft. You can impress people with not just your photography savvy but also your impressive wit through the use of appropriate hashtags. The difficulty comes when you start believing that an over-exposed, filtered and fun photo of someone’s crazy moment is indicative of their day or even their life.
I had an amazing conversation with a friend last night about their recent ‘epic adventure’. Through 3 instagram photos and a couple of facebook updates most of our friends assumed that this girl had just experienced the kind of weekend journey we could only dream about and envy. Not so. The majority of her time proved quite stressful, negative and emotionally draining ie.not the kind of stuff you capture in a picture.
It was a helpful reminder to me of a dangerous deception. All too often I notice the latest amazing photo of a youth group night with a packed out room filled with laughing young people and assume that this is how ministry goes for them. Never mind the fact that it is easy to fill the screen of an iphone with people and that you only need someone to noisily let out a little gas for everyone to be in hysterics.* No, I assume that this youth group is always packed, always smiling and unnaturally photogenic. It’s a depressing assumption and comparison is never flattering.
It’s important to celebrate the success and the fun of others but also important not to compare the highlight moments of others with our most difficult days. Of course you can always use instragram in your favour too. Having a lacklustre night at youth? Chuck a snazzy filter at it and post it. Your young people might remember this version instead :)
* Of course it is possible that they have legitimitely hosted the very best event of all time.
I have honestly, like absolutely no exaggeration here, been sent a survey to fill out every day for the last week. That’s right, 7 different surveys from 7 different groups about 7 totally different areas. Here’s the suprising part though….I completed all of them.
The best way to get feedback from people ‘survey style’ is to make it insanely easy and it seems like a whole bunch of people have recently figured out that tools like Survey Monkey are making their feedback process simple for themselves and their target audience.
If you are one of the few people who have not sent me a survey recently go ahead and check out how this tool, and others like it, may be able to help your ministry. The end of the year can be a great time to get your young people to evaluate your programs and pastoral care strategies.
Seriously, take the time to learn some names this week. I dare you.
I have a shocking memory so I know how awful it can be to try and memorise a bunch of new people’s names but nothing says “I actually respect you” like being able to greet people by name and not just “mate’, or “cuz” or a panicked look around the room as you wait for another leader to rescue you.
Here’s a tip: Gather some groups of people together and take some photos on your phone at youth group this week. Sit with some other leaders afterwards and make sure you can name each young person in the shot. Once you’ve got those down pat, practise them! Bring up the photo each day and go through their names. You’ll have a bunch of names connected to faces before you know it. And yeah actually connect the name to a face. Hair colour and outfits change which means they are not a helpful memory jog.
Tired of sitting through boring interviews? Unless the person being interviewed is seriously the most mundane person on the planet (and what are the chances of you finding that person?) it’s probably the use of poor questions that is to blame. I promised in my last blog to post some questions, so here we go:
Ask open-ended questions. A question that can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ gives you nothing!
Tell me what you saw.
What was tough about that situation?
What was the most life-changing decision you’ve ever had to make?
What are the most important lessons you have learnt this year?
What does mateship mean to you?
Why do you believe in God?
Ask feeling questions. Yes, even to guys! it gives your interview some heart.
How did it feel to…
What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
When in your life have you felt most alone?
When have you sensed God’s love for you?
Ask questions that no one else asks.
Ask a sports fanatic about the influence of their grandparents, not just about football.
Ask people what their take on racism is.
Ask what makes them angry, what motivates them, what makes them nervous.
Ask about the negative influences on their life as well as the positive ones.
Ask what they are proudest of in their life.
Ask what they believe success and failure look like.
Ask funny questions. Do some research here to know they can handle your sense of humour.
You posted this on Facebook. What’s that about? (bring up insanely embarrassing photo)
At what point should single women go shopping for their first cat?
Tell us the story of the silliest thing you ever did with your best friend.
That’s a question we’re asking ourselves all the time, so we started a blog to collect our thoughts and hopefully include you in the conversation too.
We – Claire, Nate, Shandri and Matt – work together at The Salvation Army’s Territorial Headquarters in Sydney, Australia, and are responsible for supporting and resourcing Salvation Army youth ministries throughout NSW, QLD and ACT.