This week I am privileged to begin meeting as a mentor with an incredible young man who is looking to begin a career in student ministry. It's a humbling honor to be able to speak into the life a a new youth worker. It's something I think veteran youth workers should do.
We all know that youth ministry (and any ministry for that matter) can be challenging, and sometimes down right painful. Too many potentially awesome youth pastors call it quits too soon, simply because they walk through the early years by themselves, taking the hits and dings that come with being in ministry with no one to talk to or find hope and counsel. So to be able to walk alongside a younger youth worker, for me, is an exciting opportunity to share my experiences and the wisdom learned from over 20 years in student ministry is truly an honor.
But as I begin this new relationship, I want to do so in a way that offers the most amount of help, so to encourage, equip, and prepare this youth worker for their future callings in student ministry. Want I don't want this relationship to become, is one that simply provides a time and place for me to talk about me and my many years of ministry, puffing up my own ego. So as I begin this mentoring process, I am committing myself to following a few rules that I hope will help me keep all of this in perspective, while attempting to actually teach, lead, and prepare this awesome guy to minister to students and their families.
1. Don't Be The Expert...
- What makes one an expert, especially in youth ministry? Is it having a book published? Is it being asked to lead a seminar at a youth worker conference? Is it a certain number of years serving as a youth worker? What makes an expert, an expert? I'm not really sure, I just know that I'm not one of them. What I do know is that I desire to share what I have learned and experienced while serving as a youth worker with young and upcoming youth workers. As I begin this new mentoring relationship, I want to first recognize that I am NOT an expert. Sure, I may know some things, but a lot a people know some things. The question is, can what I know be helpful to someone else? I hope so. Yes, I have experience, and yes I know a lot, but I don't know everything. So rule number one is, Don't Be the Expert, just be Myself.
2. Tell Stories That Teach...
- Telling stories for stories sake can become an opportunity to brag about the things I've done. Instead, I want to tell stories that someone can learn from. I thin one the best ways to pass along the wisdom gained from real in the trenches experience, come from the story that have taught you the most about you and your time in ministry. Stories of failures as well as stories of successes. Stories where you made mistakes and stories of when you so God move in powerful in spite of your mistakes. These are the stories that offer help. Stories about the time you took 60 students and leaders to a Christian music festival and how awesome it was, and how everyone loved it, and now everyone loves you aren't stories that teach. These story are the memories we hold onto when ministry isn't fun. So run number two is Tell Stories that Teach.
3. Be Willing to Learn...
- Good mentors are learners. It's simple. If you want to be one who teaches someone else, you must be actively learning. What are you learning? You're learning more about what you do, who you are, how you can improve and grow. Learning comes by constantly evaluating your ministry, programs, and person; assessing the health, effectiveness, and value of what you're doing. Learning is staying current with the latest in methodology, not that you're always chasing after the next best thing. But instead, you're working to be aware of trends ideas that are always breaking into the youth ministry world. Learning is expanding your view, from the near-sighted comfortability of what you know to tacking ideas and practices that you don't know.
4. Give Opportunity For Him to Do Ministry...
- Mentoring isn't just about imparting wisdom, it's about letting the person do, experience, and learn as you walk along side them. As I begin this relationship, I want to be sure that I am giving ample time for this young youth worker to stretch his wing and do ministry. In the weeks and months to come, I want to see him teach and lead, work with a small group of guys, plan, organize and lead activities, help in developing budgets, and join in as we work within the community.
5. Be Mentored Yourself...
- I've often quote Doug Fields who says, "leaders are learners." I absolutely believe that. And so I also believe that as I mentor this youth worker, I too need to be in a mentoring relationship. Throughout my years of ministry, I have been blessed to have had some amazing men speak into my life, shaping me as a husband, father, pastor, and man of integrity. This season of my ministry will be no different. I will continue to seek out godly, wise and experienced leaders to learn from, to hold me accountable, and to challenge me to grow as a husband, father, pastor, and man of integrity.
If you are a veteran youth worker, you really must consider mentoring the next generation of youth workers. Your experience and "expertise" are what they need as they begin their ministry. And no, you don't need to be an expert. No need to publish a best selling book. All you need is a heart for youth workers and willingness to live transparently, sharing what you have learned and what God is continuing to teach you.
Jay Higham is a 24 year veteran of student ministry; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently the Youth Director at Hickory Church, located in Western PA. Jay has been married to Amy for 19 years. Together, they are raising 5 kids, 4 boys and 1 little girl. You can learn more about their ministry to the family by visiting their family blog at, www.TheHighamFamily.com!