Over the next several weeks, we’ll expand each of the 50 Quick Tips found in Chapter 8 of Small(er) Church Youth Ministry: No Staff, No Money, No Problem. Let us know your thoughts.

Tip #1:

Be YOU! You are the only version of you in the world. Be authentic. The young people in your ministry want to know you rather than of a copy of someone else. There’s a famous quote attributed to actress Judy Garland – “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” (1)

This can be challenging in ministry when there are so many resources that claim to be the answer to building the best ministry ever. Even the best developed curriculum, model, or small group will only be as effective as the relationships in the ministry. At the core of ministry, relationships matter more than curriculum and models. 

Another misnomer to dispute is that youth ministry leaders have to be young, hip, tech-savvy, guitar-playing, outgoing, and athletic. While I have met some really great youth ministers with some of those characteristics, it wasn’t those things that made them good at sharing who Jesus Christ is for each young person. Their effectiveness is a result of something deeper. They have discovered that relationships matter.

The Growing Young study by Fuller Youth Institute found this to be true over and over again. They discovered that relationships even outweigh budgets. They heard this statement many times: “It’s like family here. I can be myself with these people—they accept me for who I am.”(2)

Relationships matter. You being YOU is the most effective ministry tool you have. 

So if you being YOU is the most effective tool you have, you’ll want to be prepared. So what does that look like? Consider these ideas:

  • Spend time studying God’s word. This includes reading your Bible but also includes time spent with others discussing it.
  • Build a circle of support. Pull some folks together to form a covenant group. Share your heart, be vulnerable, be accountable.
  • Know who you are. Spend some intentional time discovering who you are, what motivates you, and what breaks your heart.
  • Know your God story. Have you ever really spent time thinking about your faith story? Do it. It’s difficult to connect others to God if we are uncertain about our connection to God. Write it down. Share it with others. There’s a great book that talks about the importance of articulating our faith story. It’s by Amanda Hontz Drury – Saying Is Believing: The Necessity of Testimony in Adolescent Spiritual Development – and while it might focus on adolescent spiritual development, it applies to you also.
  • Seek out a mentor or a coach. Who do you know that is loving, learning, leading, living and serving the way that you hope to? Ask them if they’ll spend some time with you each month to talk about life and ministry.

What else would you suggest?

Take a moment to read and reflect on this passage from Luke. Jesus reminds us and each of his disciples: You being YOU is the most effective ministry tool you have.

Luke 9:3-5 The Message (MSG) 

Keep It Simple

1-5 Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick. He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.”

Commissioned, they left. They traveled from town to town telling the latest news of God, the Message, and curing people everywhere they went. (3)

(1) As quoted in Business Etiquette for the Nineties : Your Ticket to Career Success (1992) by Lou Kennedy, p. 8



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