Once any of us have been in a church for more than a year it becomes very apparent that the honeymoon is well and truly over. People are starting to discover that we have faults and failings. We’ve already stained the new carpet with paintball. Or we might have shown a video clip in church that had a cuss word in it. (Actually, I have never done that… I have tended to leave that to my lead pastor… he’s done that twice)!
The fact is, give it time and people get to see that you are not one of the Apostles and that you don’t stay awake 24 hours a day, and that you are not the answer they were looking for in a youthworker. It’s in these situations that you and I need to build what I call a ‘youth ministry fan base’.
A fan base is not an ego boost… The fan base are the people who have your back, who know you, who understand you vision, who see you and accept you for who you are. Our fan base will not only keep us encouraged, but will also keep us in healthy accountability. The fan base are the ones who speak for you at a church meeting or when a parent is concerned about you and their kids. The fan base can be the difference between short-lived ministry and a healthy long one. So how do I work on my ‘fan base’
1) Invest in the Leaders. Choose 4 or 5 influential people at your church, (in leadership or simply influential). Take them out for coffee and find out about them, ask them about their hopes and dreams for the church. Ask them how someone like you and I could do well there. Then, at the end of your time together, ask them if you can share your vision and dreams … (You will be surprised how your vision might be restated by someone like this at opportune time).
2) Invest in Parents. Parents need to be heard and need to know that we care. They need to know that we are reaffirming what they say at home to their kids. They only know we care if we take time out. On a typical evening you will see that I spend 50% of my time talking to parents at the end of the program. These conversations are valuable to understand families and their dynamics, but also to build trust with parents. Here’s the other upside… some of those parents become your leaders, event planners, and food providers too. Hopefully, they are blessed, but so are our ministries.
3) Invest through the Generations. At my last church we had quite a large number of shall we say, ‘older folks’ who seemed to struggle with teenagers. (I am sure your church has similar issues). However, I quickly learned that it was important to seek out a few influential pensioners who could become ‘youth ministry fans’. It was just a question of taking time to talk with them about what the students were up to and what issues these kids face today. It’s amazing to see the walls come down when you share stories of kids joys and challenges to older folks. You see, it’s a lot harder to judge when you heart is hurting for kids…
4) The ‘Up Front’ Strategy. Work with you pastor and leadership to be ‘up front’ as often as your schedule allows, even if it is for the announcements on Sunday, or helping with a kids message. Whatever way you can, it pays to let people see you. At my current church I preach every couple of months, (it used to be every 5-6 weeks), and I regularly do announcements. Even if I am not doing either, you will always see me on the door greeting people as they leave. Even if I don’t feel like I know everyone, I have found that people feel connected with me because I am up front a quite a lot. When people feel like they know you, it’s harder for them to be a critic. Be strategic about being up front.
More ‘Fan Base’ Ideas to come…