Giving youth pastors the tools they need to make and shape disciples.

9 Practices of Proactive Youth Pastors

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“Today. Today… At the edge of our hope, at the end of our time, we have chosen not only to believe in ourselves, but in each other. Today there is not a man nor woman in here that shall stand alone. Not today. Today we face the monsters that are at our door and bring the fight to them! Today, we are *canceling* the apocalypse!” – Stacker Pentecost, Pacific Rim

“Bringing the fight to them” is the essence of proactivity. The fight, in the case of youth pastor, is the work that needs to be done to avoid the personal apocalypse of being fired, being called into a meeting or having your vision hijacked by those who’d like to tell you how to run the youth ministry.

Setting clear goals and priorities

The key word is CLEAR. If you do not know where the youth ministry is going, you are leaving it up to everyone else to tell you where it’s going. A lack of a POV means the ministry can be co-opted by just about anyone.

Your students, parents and pastor can help you refine your mission/vision but it starts with you and what God has put on your heart. If you need help clarifying your goals, check out my Squad Goals course.

Planning ahead and organizing tasks

All those goals and dream you have, have to be put on a calendar in the form of an activity, a meeting, a trip or a relationship that makes the dreams and goals a reality. If you do not have a firm grip on where you want to go, you can’t plan the steps out to get you there.

This is why you must take control of your days and discipline yourself to stay on task, otherwise, random stuff will creep in and take over your time. If you need help with planning, check out my Youth Ministry Playbook.

Building strong relationships with youth and their families

The depth of your relationships with students and parents will dictate a lot of things

* How long you stay at your church

* Surviving a screw up

* The ability to try new things

All of this is based on trust. You are banking relational time and capital so you can spend it when it’s needed be it for a rainy day when things go sideways or when you have an idea you want to try that may or may not work. Relationships are the capital you have to build.

Get ahead of the storm

If I learned anything from the movie Twister, it is that it’s better to be ahead of the storm than in the storm. A youth pastor is a storm chaser, plotting the course of potential spiritual tornadoes that could upend the youth ministry. We carefully collect data and let the people who let other people know they are in the path and to find safety.

Consider when you hear a parent or student complaining about the ministry, it could be nothing but it could be something, bank that info and then talk to your pastor or supervisor if there is anything going on with the family that might put this in context.

Another instance where you need to be ahead of the storm is when you think you messed up and did something or said something that could get back to your pastor. When you realize you’ve messed up, be sure you’re the person who comes and shares it and not someone else.

Knowing the solution before the problem

“What could go wrong?” is more that an tagline from a movie, it is a proactive question.

* what could go wrong at camp?

* what could go wrong at the outreach?

* what could go wrong if you let that person on the team?

I am not talking about being negative or a lack of faith but I found myself in the most trouble when I became presumptuous, took things for granted or just assumed things. Think whatever it is through, spot the potential issues, if there are any, and come up with a if this/then that mindset.

Get feedback often

I once served in a church that did yearly reviews. My first, and last one, felt like I was at a Festivus celebration where there were the airing of grievances followed by feats of strength.

My “team” decided not to correct me for my mistakes in real time, they stored up all my errors for this one meeting. How was this helpful? I sat there like an idiot, embarrassed, as I one thing after another was brought up that happened months ago.

I take some blame. I took their silence as as approval and I did not check in often enough to see how I was doing. It’s easy to believe your own press clipping when people are telling you you’re doing a good job. Take stock and if you do not have regular reviews, ask for them ever six months with a team of people who love you but are willing to tell you the truth.

Taking initiative without waiting to be told

There were a few times in staff meetings where I heard but was not listening to my pastor. He was making statements to the whole staff about things he wanted us to do but since it was not directed at me, I ignored it. Bad move.

If your pastor is saying something over and over again, even if it’s not directed at you, it’s for you and they are waiting for you to do it, practice it, etc. No, it’s not fair but listening is a proactive practice that will save you time and hassle.

Continuous learning and self-improvement

I am an avid reader and I remember reading books that my pastor was reading just so I could be in the know. Whatever my pastor was reading was most likely going to show up in a sermon or as a paradigm shift. I want to ahead of the curve if those changes came but I also want to know where my pastor’s heart was and how I could support them.

It’s like signing up my newsletter because you want 9 youth ministry articles and 3 youth ministry videos ever week so you could stay current on culture and build important leadership skills.

It’s also like getting coaching before you absolutely need coaching. The ability to check in once a month, get feedback, skill build and vent a little before you explode, is proactive. Not going to a doctor until you absolutely have to is a bad idea. It’s better to go to your yearly check up and find out what’s happening with your body in real time before something surprises you.

Taking stock of self

Reading your bibles and praying are all proactive measures to ensure your spiritual growth. Like exercise is proactive to staving off bad health, taking care of your soul is proactive in beating burnout and spiritual stagnation.

Discipling yourself is as, if not more, important than discipling students. This is why airline stewards tell you to put your mask on first and then your childs’ mask. If you’re passed out, you’re no good to anyone else.

What is your history when it comes to getting ahead of thing before they get beyond your control?

Where are your weaknesses when it comes to planning?

Self examination is, in itself, proactive.

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