C.S. Lewis once said something along the lines that true friendship happens the moment two people come to the point of saying, “Really? You too?!” That moment is so important, especially in youth ministry. Have you ever felt like you’re the only one who struggles getting your volunteers to show up for things? The only one who has kids who talk all through your messages? The only one who has student leaders who drop the ball on stuff? I am sure you have. In that moment, you don’t want to talk to people who have no idea what you’re talking about. You don’t want to be around people who simply feel sorry for you. You want to be around people who can say, “Really? You too?!” The moment when you realize that you’re not alone – that maybe all the stuff you’re going through isn’t necessarily a reflection of you, maybe it’s just youth ministry – is hugely important to your health and success as a youth leader.
One of my favorite things throughout my years in youth ministry has been the regular connections that I have been able to have with other youth workers in my area. While I was in Virginia I was a part of two such networks, and I have been heavily involved in our network here on Long Island since I arrived over 3 years ago. I believe networks are an absolute necessity for maintaining health and perspective and are crucial for longevity in ministry.
I have seen them done effectively a number of different ways. We currently meet on the second Thursday of each month (suspended during the summer) from 10am-1pm. Here is the format we are currently using and it is really working for us:
- 10-10:15 – Mingling
- 10:15-10:20 – Introductions (each month we have a couple of new people)
- 10:30-10:45 – Opening activity. One of us will usually bring some sort of a crowd mixer/game/discussion starter that helps us get to know one another better or introduces the topic for the month. It is also presented with the idea of being a resource that we can take back home and use with our students.
- 10:45-11:30 – Discussion-based training. one of us will have a lesson prepared based on the topic of the month. We have done things on technology, evangelism, social justice, media, games, working together, and many more. The presenter shares a bit and we have lots of interaction throughout.
- 11:30-11:50 – Break up into small groups to share and pray for one another
- 11:50-12:00 – Sharing about upcoming events
- 12:00-1:00 – Lunch. This is a dynamic we added last year and has been the gem of the meeting. This is when the relationships really form. Lots of laughter and exchanging phone numbers.
If you are not in a youth ministry network, you need to either find one in your area and get connected or start one if none exist. The times of fellowship have kept me in youth ministry for one more month on more than one occasion. Hopefully they are helping or will help you as well.