January 6, 2016
Almost two years ago I took up triathlon training in an effort to get in shape. I have finished two triathlons over the past year. (Notice my word, finished. Finishing is winning for me.) I have learned several things over the course of this journey. Early morning swims are difficult. Bicyclist safety is not a priority of most drivers. There is no secret to being a good runner.
Arguably the most important training tip I discovered was I could not neglect any discipline of the triathlon. Swim, bike and run. If you neglect one of these activities, your performance in the triathlon will suffer. The same is true when it comes to relationships for children and student ministers. Children and student ministers must maintain good relationships with church leadership, parents and ministry leaders, and students.
These relationships must be placed as a high priority. While one of these relationships may not be a favorite of yours, each of them must be built and maintained.
Church leadership consists of persons serving in a variety of roles, including pastor, church staff, deacons/elders and other key leaders in the church. All these relationships matter. Pray for your pastor, other staff members and key leaders. Schedule consistent one-on-one meetings with your pastor. Attend deacon meetings. Be visible in business meetings. Arrive at church early, walk around the facility and speak to greeters in the parking lot and the welcome center.
As a student minister, I made it a priority to speak with Mr. Peppers every Sunday at the welcome center. Mr. Peppers, a senior adult, was chairman of the transportation committee and maintained church buses. But I did not speak to him only about my needs related to transportation. Because he loves the Tampa Bay Rays, I looked at the standings every Sunday morning during baseball season to engage him in conversation. He always made sure that the buses were ready for a student event and drove if needed–especially if we were going to a Rays game.
Parents and Ministry Leaders
Relationship needs with parents and ministry leaders are identical. Training must be provided for both groups, and hopefully your parents serve as ministry leaders, so your ministry with the two groups will overlap.
Your students spend more time with their parents than they do with you, so providing them opportunities for engagement and training is critical. Consider something as simple as a “youth culture” training session. Be sure to make it a priority to sit with parents and guardians when attending your students’ non-church events. Make the effort to get to know them.
Too many times as a minister to children and students we have the mentality that we can succeed in ministry singlehandedly on our own. This is not the case and it does not need to be. Lay leaders in children and student ministry are an integral part of your ministry. Make it a priority to spend time with them. Provide training for them. Take time to go to lunch with them. Encourage them through constant communication including texts and emails.
Many times, parents are the leaders in your ministry. While it is permissible to see them as the same group at times, make an effort to take time to talk to parents as parents, not as people to get things done in ministry.
Building relationships with students is the fun part of ministry. It is also the difficult part of ministry. Many children and student leaders became involved in ministry because they felt called to build relationship with students. Playing paintball and dodgeball is the fun part. However, relationships must be developed with a discipleship mentality. There a times when fun events are needed, but do not make that the foundation of your relationship. Create accountability relationships with students. Make an effort to have kingdom discussions. Talk about their growth in Christ. Consider developing a discipleship group of 3-4 students to meet with each semester.
Relationships matter as a children/student minister. While the relationships with these specific groups do not compare to your individual relationship with the Lord, they are important. Make them a priority in your routine schedule.
By Billy Young