The back-to-school season is a stressful time for everyone in the youth ministry context. Parents are stressed over making sure their students are ready. Students, for the most part, are dreading the loss of freedom brought on by the end of summer and the return to a more structured life with school.
Many churches have planned their “Move-Up Sunday” to coincide with the beginning of school, throwing another change into the growing mix.
With emotions running high, teens often unintentionally make life harder for those around them.
Is it any wonder? The rapid-fire transition is enough to drive anyone deep into the stress pool.
Yet, I believe there is an amazing opportunity for student pastors and leaders to shine during this season.
My desire is to help turn any dread you may have into hope and to equip you to move your ministry toward a more confident, ambitious platform as we approach going back to school.
Back to school is to student ministry what spring is to the seasons.
For plant life, the winter is a harsh time where so much occurs below the surface in preparation for the spring.
For student ministries, summer is that busy time where we pour so much into students in the hopes that all that potential below the surface will spring up when they return to school.
Now is the time to focus on personal relationships with your youth. Spend time in one-on-one conversations.
At this point in time, that extra attention is like sun and water to budding flowers. It will encourage growth and strengthen relationships.
Make a schedule, and call a different student and leader every evening to check in on them and pray for them. You are growing those relational roots deep by doing this. And just like a seed that finds fertile ground produces an abundant harvest in due time, these relationships will produce sweet fruit in due season.
If you have small group leaders, get them involved in this as well. They need those deep relationships in order to be effective mentors.
Now is the time to give students something to look forward to.
In the springtime, we spring clean in the hope that our home will finally look like it belongs in Southern Living. We landscape with the aim of finally making our yard the envy of the neighborhood. We try to eat healthier from the desire of finally shedding those pounds we resolved to lose after New Year’s Day. Everyone is ready for a new, fresh start.
Fall is similar in that respect. With the start of the school year, parents and teens are primed and ready to achieve something ambitious – something to be excited about that promises accomplishments and success.
Now is the time to embrace any new vision or even revamp an old vision into your ministry. Paint beautiful pictures of what could be and communicate those portraits to your leaders, parents, and students. You should already be ministering to them personally by nurturing those relationships. Now you are giving them something into which they can place their optimism.
When life becomes difficult, humans typically long to find something worthwhile to cling to. So, dream big, cast that vision and work with your parents and students as they catch the vision. Once one or two are on board, they become the cheerleaders with you, and you will gain momentum.
Now is the time for you to have fun. Summer was fun. Teens enjoyed the events you planned and executed. Parents loved seeing their teens having fun and being engaged with activities. For you, summer might have been enjoyable but also more work than almost any other time of the year. And more work equals more stress.
We need things to go as planned. We want this to be the year no one goes to the hospital. And we have so many other desires for our youth.
As leaders, we carry these stressful thoughts with us through the summer months. To finally be able to release some of that burden come fall feels great. Just don’t let it lead you into complacency.
Now is the time to get back to having fun but without all the stress. Let yourself exhale and enjoy the routine with your teens and your leaders. Get back to relishing being in church.
And, by all means, have fun when you gather with your youth. Play games you enjoy. Give your leaders a hand at the reins so you can sit back and participate instead of leading. Do that ice breaker that lets you laugh at that one teen that gave you grief all summer. Okay, that may be a little much, but you get the idea.
As you are nurturing relationships with your parents, teens, and leaders, you should also take this as the opportunity to nurture your own life and spirit. It is okay to minister to yourself. However you do it, take advantage of the ways available to dig your roots deep and find joy in the week-to-week, day-to-day activities.
If you don’t have a group of fellow youth pastors and leaders with whom you meet and pray, I strongly encourage you to find one.
If you need help finding those people, I have something to help you. YMLink has developed a network of youth pastors and leaders around the state of Alabama. We have network strategists in almost every association that we can direct you to, and they can help connect you with others in your area.
Also, if you are interested in being part of a small group of youth pastors and leaders, YMLink has some going on right now and will be starting more. These are iron-sharpening-iron type groups where there is no competition. So, check out the YMLink website, and let us serve you.