Q: Where do you go after midweek youth ministry?
A: 5 years ago, my best friend and fellow youth minister, Chad Higgins, and I started getting calls to help train and equip youth ministers across Oklahoma. I love my home state, and there are many out-of-the-way places where people gather and have church. Chad and I traveled to towns with names that had more syllables than letters, and we found that youth ministry leaders everywhere were hungry for peer relationships. They were giving everything to volunteers, parents, and students with no real ongoing support plan.
We found that youth ministers felt drained, exhausted, overworked, and misunderstood.
During a season of traveling every Saturday for a month to train, Chad and I would catch up over coffee on Thursdays to discuss what we had learned before heading back out on the road. I remember sitting across the table at Doubleshot Coffee in Tulsa with Chad one Thursday in August, heavy with the exhaustion of another Wednesday of my own emotional expenditure.
That was the moment we decided we needed to offer an encouraging voice to youth ministers who were feeling at their lowest. After the weekly emptying that was midweek youth program night, youth pastors didn’t need more tips or tricks—they needed encouragement to their heaviest and most honest questions. We needed to meet them at their lowest with our most honest handling of the truth.
So we did what you were supposed to do in 2015: we started a podcast. At the time, there were only a handful of podcasts about youth ministry and most of them were focused on practical training and skill-building tools for leading in ministry. There wasn’t much in the way of addressing heart issues to combat the weary and wounded youth minister.
What started as a podcast for Oklahoma friends eventually attracted a national audience of youth ministers who felt drained from arduous mid-week programming, as well as those disillusioned with the main aims of youth ministry. It was in this space we started to craft digital resources to further equip youth ministers for the hard work of leading youth ministry.
The more things grew, the more clear it became that we needed to create a feedback loop that was safe and encouraging.
In August of 2017, we pivoted away from a resource model and towards meeting online in a membership community. This was our way of not just being an encouraging voice “After 9” on Wednesday nights, but being a support, cheerleader, and rocket fuel booster throughout the week.
It was in those first Mastermind meetings that we realized that thoughtful collaboration and soul care were elements that youth ministers were missing from their weekly regime. There is a bounty of resources for youth ministry leaders to use, but for those who are leading and feeling used up, more is needed.
Youth ministry is tough work. If you allow it, it will take everything you give to it.
The work of youth ministry is primarily relational, which means it is constantly draining. If you don’t have a plan to refill, you will sink.
We still make podcasts and other forms of great content weekly and monthly, but if you are leading out in youth ministry and don’t have the collaborative, caring support of a peer-based community, then we invite you into Youth Ministry Booster. There is ongoing collaboration, care, and encouragement for youth ministers of every experience level.
This post was written by Zac Workun. Zac serves as the Student Ministry Training Specialist for Lifeway and is one of the co-founders of Youth Ministry Booster, Lifeway Students’ collaboration and training network. He has served the local church in various youth ministry roles for over 15 years.