Crowded cafeterias. Loud whispers. Familiar and unfamiliar faces. Awkward glares. All of these define the high school/middle school lunchroom experience.
As a youth minister, I believe the main part of my “job description” is building relationships with the students. It is imperative that we are investing in their lives in order to be effective in our jobs. Sure, this can be done on Wednesday and Sunday nights (or whenever youth ministries may meet); however, I am an ardent supporter that true ministry happens when you go into the trenches. Youth ministry is not some squeaky-clean ministry, where you can feel comfortable 100% of the time. It is not a place where you can just relax in your church office or local coffee shop every day and “prepare for the main event.” Youth ministry requires getting dirty. It requires going into even the places you thought you left a long time ago.
Letting Them Know You Care
As I have mentioned in my most recent blog, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is especially true in youth ministry. Adolescents are much smarter than we often think they are. They pick up on social cues. They can sniff apathy and lack of care from a mile away. Teenagers are in a time of life where they need to know that people care for them. I have learned from experience that it is crucial to show them you are in it for them (let’s be honest; who actually does youth ministry because they want to be well-known, rich, and famous?). We, youth ministers and volunteer leaders alike, must be there for our students. So what does this mean for those of us involved in youth ministry? It means that we need to be making time to go to sporting events, orchestra concerts, visiting them at work, having coffee (decaffeinated beverages for them) with them, and going to the school cafeterias!