It’s also pretty close to the reaction that I had over thirty years ago.
Youth work is not really as scary as it sounds. Teenagers are at an important and exciting time in their life. They are defining, redefining and refining who they are. They are filled with questions and energy. I love to be around their energy and enthusiasm, as well as their occasional mistrust of the world around them.
The greatest barrier that I have encountered with folks considering, (or declining) this work goes something like; "I won’t know what to do!” If that sounds like you, here is a short list of what I see as the only essential requirements:
- The ability to remember what it was like for you as a teenager. Can you recall when the most important things on your mind had to do with your reputation and your status among your peers?
- Are you willing to be about the journey, right along with the kids, to see how the Bible informs your life decisions? Note that I am not saying that you must be able to answer all of their questions, but to question and search with them.
- The understanding that for most kids, the Sunday liturgy is something that they only endure. Most of their learning and fellowship and Christian development are going to occur outside of Church service. Can you meet them where they are?
- A love for God, Jesus, and the willingness to occasionally sleep on a floor, or listen to terrible
- Patience. You will sometimes be tested by, and frustrated with, the kids. It is a natural part of who they are at this part of their life. You will also need to be patient about expecting results. There will certainly be some moments of joy, but the true payoff may not come for fifteen years, when a thirty-something young adult tells you how much they enjoyed their youth group years, or when they quote something that you said to them that has been long forgotten by you.
I encourage you to take a chance. Maybe you’ll be lucky, like I was, and it will change your life.
Dennis Coleman is a long-time youth worker and trainer who is currently a deacon-in-training. He exists happily alongside his nine children and twelve (so far) grandchildren.