7 Things I Learned in My 7 Years of Youth Ministry
by Edric Uy, UCM Youth Ministry Director
I grew up going to youth for a good three years as a high school student. I actually only started going after I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior in a youth
After graduating from high school, I came back and volunteered to be a youth leader from 2011-14 during my college days. Eventually, I found myself interning in the same ministry for a year and a half (2014-15). After my internship, I went on staff as the youth coordinator and I’ve completed two full years (2016-2017) on the job so far.
In those seven grace-filled years as a youth leader, I’ve faced countless challenges, learned through experiences, and fought the good fight. To give you some context, Union Church of Manila – the church I’ve been immersed in – is an international, interdenominational, English-speaking church. As I was creating my list, I’ve filtered my points to be applicable to most, if not all, of youth and leaders in the ministry.
Here’s a list of 7 things I’ve learned as a leader in the ministry:
1.We as youth leaders are John the Baptists.
- John paved the way for the coming of Christ. We can see that in John 1 he clearly understood what his role was, which was to lead his own disciples to Christ. The passage shows his humility in knowing that he isn’t the Messiah nor a prophet. He was merely a servant of the Lord leading those who followed him to Jesus, baptizing them with water and not with the Spirit.
- We are the “John the Baptists” to our kids. The biggest difference of a discipler from a mentor is that a mentor molds his followers to become like themselves, while a discipler on the other hand, molds his followers to become like Christ. Our main calling as disciples is to make disciples, therefore preparing the way and leading our youth towards Christ alone.
2. A personal relationship with the youth is the key to a fruitful planted seed.
- We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19). We are called to reflect the same love Christ showed us – a relentless pursuit. Therefore, just as God is intentional with us, we have to be intentional in engaging with the youth. I cannot count the number of times a youth came to an event or activity all just because the leader was the one who personally invited them. Always have a relationship with the youth and always invite them personally.
- There’s always this image in my head that the youth is always pushing adults away with one hand, but behind that is his other hand closer to his heart asking you to approach them. Every youth wants to be pursued. They want to know that you value them, so do so by being consistent with them. Don’t be discouraged if they push you away sometimes.
3. You have too much influence …so don’t do something stupid.
- The youth will forget most of what you say, but they will never forget even the smallest unnoticeable things you do. I always want every leader to know that the youth look up to them way more than they know it. The youth will always follow what the leader does. If the leader gets a new haircut or starts wearing a new accessory, the youth will do the same. The leaders are the greatest trendsetters of the youth ministry. Given that fact, always keep in mind not to do something too crazy or stupid, especially if lives are on the line. The youth will always follow what you do. Therefore, I’d like to challenge you to take advantage of the influence that you have and impart snippets of your lives that are worth sharing. Always have the heart of 1 Thess. 2:8: Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
4. We are partners with parents in discipling the youth.
- The parents are the primary disciplers of the kids. No one else knows the kids as well as their own parents. There’s nothing more effective in youth ministry than parent involvement. Create opportunities where the parents can be involved in the activities of the youth. Make the most out of the parents who are already showing interest and commitment to the ministry, while trying to reach out to the ones who still need a little push. Even just knowing the names of the parents of the youth will go a long way. Keep the parents connected and updated with what is happening in the ministry because at the end of the day, the parents are in control of the schedules of your youth.
5. Invest in and disciple a team of multipliers.
- Do not try to reach all the youth let alone the kids in your ministry by yourself; you will only reach so much. Instead, invest in a team of disciples that make disciples. You’ll also be surprised how diversity in your leaders make a huge difference. The more diverse your team is, the wider range of kids your team will reach. Take a look at the 12 disciples. Jesus picked his team of 12 from all different walks of life – fishermen, tax collectors, politicians, etc. Don’t worry too much about the dynamic of your team and who will get along and work well together or not. The most important thing you should make sure is if everyone in your team has the same vision. Everyone will have their own way of doing things and the Spirit will be the one to use their unique abilities, skills, and backgrounds to propel them towards that same vision. There was a high chance that based on the backgrounds of the 12 disciples, they could have fought and even killed each other because of their differences. But being given the same vision and calling from Jesus, they focused on what needed to be done – spread the good news. Be sure to ingrain that in your leaders.
6. Your love for the kids is an overflow of God’s love for you.
- The love you can express from oneself is finite, but the source of the love you experience is infinite. The only way you can never lose heart of run out of love for your kids is if you fully experience and be filled by God’s love for you first. This does not mean you have to be “right with God” or “spiritually mature” enough to become a leader. Spiritual growth and maturity is a lifelong process and is not defined by age. The principle here is that we need to remind ourselves that we need God to be filled by God’s love in order to reflect that light of His to the kids. It’s His love we are expressing, not of our own. We are called to abide in Him to bear fruit because apart from Him, we can do nothing. (John 15)
7. Learn to say NO. Take your Sabbath.
- Jesus was not a “yes man.” During his three years of ministry, countless people traveled long and far just to see him and some of those who were sick came to be touched by him in hopes to be healed. Jesus did not entertain and heal every single person who was looking for him. In the same way, don’t say yes to all the things people in and out of church ask from you. Focus on the destination and vision of your ministry. In Luke, you can read that Jesus needed to go to Jerusalem and he did not let the people slow him down through his journey. On top of that, he would regularly take time alone to just pray and commune with his father. Jesus was fully human and we can follow his example. You won’t be able to pour your life out for others unless you fill your own cup first. Don’t take Sabbath for granted. If God created us to worship him, he could have created us as beings with no need for sleep or rest so that we can worship him every moment of our lives – but he did not. He wired us in a way that we need rest. Take that rest in reverence to Him that we are nothing without him.
These are only a few of the things I’ve learned through my 7 years in ministry. It’s easy to be familiar with these lessons, but definitely a challenge to turn this knowledge into wisdom. I’ve been blessed with an amazing mentor and boss – Amy Allen – to help me put these things into the perspective of a youth leader. I invite you to do the same. Don’t lose heart. Fight the good fight. Run the race and complete the task that the Lord Jesus has given you – the task of testifying the good news of God’s grace.
Union Church of Manila is an international Christian church in Makati. There are 3 main Sunday Worship Services: 8:30 am; 10:30 am; 12:30 pm.
Sunday Service for the Youth (open to all in grades 7 – 12): 10:30 AM – 12 NN (UCM Level 5)
Contact us today at (632) 812-5609 or visit www.unionchurch.ph and learn more about our worship services and ministries.