Leadership is a lonely place. Youth ministry leadership can be especially lonely, as youth ministers shepherd students who are facing challenges and issues unprecedented in previous generations. They sometimes serve in churches whose members resist their efforts to contextualize the gospel to reach students and find themselves in the role of trying to help these members, and even their pastors, to understand the importance of such contextualization. Youth leaders work long hours in ministry, often with little praise or recognition from members of their congregations. They fight the perception some members communicate that they serve in the “minor leagues” of ministry. Because all of these factors can make youth ministry a lonely place, youth ministry networks are essential.
Some youth ministers try to do ministry on their own. They do not reach out to other youth leaders in their area. Perhaps they feel like they don’t need to build relationships with student ministers in other congregations. They might fear that such interaction with other youth pastors might result in their peers in ministry “stealing students” or “stealing ideas” from their ministry. Insecurity in leadership is another potential hindrance to youth ministers networking with their peers in the community. They don’t want to appear that they lack knowledge or competency in ministry. Another reason youth pastors might do ministry on their own is that they might be new to their communities and haven’t yet met other student ministers in the area. Such isolation can lead to loneliness, depression, discouragement, bitterness, and even moral failure.
God designed us for relationship with others. From the beginning, Scripture says “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.”(Genesis 2:18 CSB). Later, God would establish His church, which would consist of believers who live together in relationship with God and in relationship with each other. We see the type of relationship that should be evident in the church in the book of Hebrews which states, “And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”(Hebrews 10:24-25 CSB) God designed the church to work as a group of interdependent members who live closely in relationship with each other, encouraging and exhorting one another.
It’s especially important for leaders in the church to have close relationships with other leaders who seek to shepherd their people and advance the Kingdom of Christ. Youth pastors in particular benefit greatly from such youth ministry networks. I will mention three benefits of youth ministry networks; however, this list is by no means exhaustive.
Youth Ministry Networks Provide Mentors for Youth Ministers
You will find a wide range of experience in youth ministry networks. Some members are serving in their first church as youth pastor. Others are seasoned veterans who have served for years in youth ministry. Networks create the opportunity for more experienced youth pastors to mentor peers who have not been in youth ministry that long. Such mentoring relationships provide discipleship, encouragement, leadership development, and prayer support. Both the mentor and the mentee grow from the relationship. Also, such mentoring relationships in youth ministry networks strengthen the churches of their members and help to advance ministry in their communities.
Youth Ministry Networks Provide Accountability and Encouragement for Youth Ministers
Because loneliness is a serious concern in youth ministry, youth ministry networks play an important role in providing accountability and encouraging relationships for youth ministers. When youth ministers meet and pray together, they find that they are not alone on an island, but have partners in the gospel who face the same challenges and opportunities that come along with ministering to students. In addition, isolation makes youth ministers more susceptible to temptation. Youth ministry networks can provide accountability for youth pastors, helping to protect them from moral failure. Meeting together with other youth leaders who love the Lord and love you is also very encouraging. Such Christian fellowship fights against the loneliness that so often accompanies youth ministry. This accountability and encouragement fosters more healthy youth ministers and more healthy youth ministries.
Youth Ministry Networks Make More of a Kingdom Impact in Their Communities
The Bible says, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 CSB) We accomplish more in ministry for the Kingdom when we work together than when we attempt ministry on our own. Youth ministry is a spiritual fight against the powers of darkness in our families, communities, and culture. Like any fight, we are stronger when we fight together. We also advance the light further into our communities by working together. Youth ministry networks allow youth pastors to advance the gospel and the Kingdom of Christ further together than they would trying to do ministry alone. When they unite in planning and conducting mission trips, summer camps, DNows, etc. youth ministry networks make a tremendous Kingdom impact.
Youth ministry networks provide mentors, offer accountability and encouragement, and help youth ministers make more of a Kingdom impact in their communities. As I travel throughout the country, I’m excited about the youth ministry networks I see sprouting up in communities. The Lord is using these networks to do awesome things for the Kingdom. If you have any interest in starting or finding such a network in your community, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blessings!
Tim is the Associate Professor for Youth Ministry & Missions at Anderson University and is the Executive Director of Youth Ministry Round Table. He is the author of No Better Gospel and the coauthor of the upcoming Raising the Bar 2nd edition.