Those who know me best would say I am a collector of hobbies. While I pushed against that descriptor for a long time, my bookshelves, closet, and garage space all reveal the truth. I admit it . . . I am a collector of hobbies. I’m always up for trying something new, especially if it involves some type of game, collection, new skill, or the outdoors. See what I mean? Collector of hobbies . . .
New skills take time to develop
One thing that is clear to me from a life of collecting hobbies is that learning to do something new takes time. Most of the time, learning a new skill takes longer than I’d like. There have been more than a few moments where I’ve already launched into something new without fully getting a grasp on what I intended to do.
‘Jack of All Trades’ is not a good leadership descriptor
I’m sure you’ve heard the statement, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. There are definitely moments where I feel like a “Jack of all trades” in my hobbies, but it’s not a good place to be in leadership.
One of the great disciplines of leadership is being able to sit in the learning when things get difficult, boring, or when things don’t have the shine of being new anymore. The antidote for this is training. Some of you might be thinking, “Training is for beginners,” and I want to caution against that mindset.
When you are in a consistent training environment, it reveals when you’re heading toward a potential rut, it sharpens your existing tools, and adds new ones. All of this is necessary for you to continue growing as a leader, especially when things get difficult.
The weirdest fall ever
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do if I were in your shoes at this moment—staring down the weirdest fall semester ever. One temptation I believe I’d have is to give in to the desire to take on this “Jack of all trades” approach to ministry. Maybe you, too, feel the need to be an expert in pandemics, school reopening, church reopening, mitigating the spread of disease, facilitating online and in-person small groups, and navigating an ever-changing landscape, events, and budgeting . . . to name just a few.
Student engagement above all
As a leader, you do have to have your hand in many different things. But there’s one thing you need to master right now above all others: student engagement.
Student engagement is the primary metric to focus on right now, rather than how many students show up online or in person. To be more clear, I want to define student engagement here as intentional personal interaction that you have with students in your ministry. While still observing the proper protocols for safety and security, intentional personal interaction goes beyond a simple “How are you?” or superficial conversation to a level where you are seeking to have a meaningful conversation with students. Inside of those meaningful conversations, the seeds of discipleship can be watered.
The “everything is changing” advantage
One simple application for this: as schools are announcing their plans for the fall, many are taking an online learning or hybrid approach to at least the first semester of classes, and extra curricular activities are being limited.
Student pastors, this is your opportunity to lean in to more personal discipleship than you’ve done in the past. This shift in the schedule and rhythm of students’ lives clears the way for you and your leaders to be more personally involved in the discipleship journey of those in your ministry. Your student’s schedules are more open than they’ve been in years. In many ways, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for: room to actually disciple teenagers. Take careful advantage of the space in your schedule (and theirs) to truly engage students and see them become devoted followers of Jesus. (As a side note: the wrong move here would be to fill their newly-opened schedules with things to keep them attended and busy. People over programming!)
Leaders are lifelong learners
As I mentioned earlier, training is not just for newbies. The most influential leaders are lifelong learners who continually work toward honing their skills to be the most effective leader they can be.
Our goal at LifeWay Students is to provide multiple platforms (this blog, our podcast, and the Student Ministry That Matters YouTube channel) where leaders of all stages can be developed and encouraged.
One of our most focused communities for ministry leadership development is Youth Ministry Booster. You’ve heard about Booster from me several times recently because I don’t want you to miss out on all of the benefits of being a member: access to a large video training archive, leadership resources, and monthly webinars from leading student ministry voices.
We want to help you master the most important aspect of being a student pastor: intentional student engagement for the purpose of helping teenagers know Christ and follow Him.
Registration for Season 2 of Youth Ministry Booster ends September 2, 2020.