An interview on youth ministry

This weekend, I was asked to be interviewed by a college student who is preparing for youth ministry. Since I was taking the time to fill out all the questions, I am also posting them here. I thought it might be helpful for anyone else wanting to learn more about me as a woman in full time youth ministry or for anyone else discerning a call to youth ministry.

1. How long have you been in youth ministry?
Since I graduated high school in1995…wow I feel old. That’s almost 17 years.

2. How Did you know you were called to Youth Ministry?
As a young middle school student my faith started to become my own. I also saw a few years later, that in middle school my younger brother started making different choices than the ones I made. The idea of the importance of middle school ministry stuck in my soul. I enjoyed my first youth group experience when my family began regularly attending a church with a youth ministry. When I was a teenager; I heard the call to youth ministry as I experienced serving as a student leader in my youth group and in campus ministry at my high school. As I began to not only see my natural skills and spiritual gifts emerge but also my heart for others and my experience in student ministry; God began to shape a crystal clear calling into youth ministry. I feel blessed that there was never a question of “What should I do with my life?” It seemed clear from the age of 13 on. As I grew older, others affirmed this call in my life.   

3. Where and how have you served in youth ministry so far?
Shall I attach my resume? I started as an intern at a large church while attending a Christian College in San Diego.  From there I landed my first full time position as a middle school director at a church by the beach. After having my first child, I worked at a Presbyterian church in North County as a youth director for almost 8 years. Almost 3 years ago we moved back to El Cajon and I started working full time at a large Baptist church as a Middle School Coordinator.  I was ready to be able to pour myself not only into middle school ministry, but also in developing other young interns the way I was mentored back in my college days. 

4. How did you prepare yourself for youth ministry?
Through both schooling and jumping right in to youth ministry at the same time. I wanted to learn and be able to immediately apply what I was learning into the context of the local church. I have a BA in Bible and a Master’s in Christian Ed. 

5. What is your greatest frustration in youth ministry?
My greatest frustration is when some youth ministries are forced to focus primarily on immediate results more than the long term faith development of those in our care. We have a pretty balanced ministry here. Both are seen as important. 

6. What is your greatest joy in youth ministry?
Seeing kids fall in love with Jesus and stay walking with Him post high school.

7. What is your greatest challenge in youth ministry?
The same! Seeing kids fall in love with Jesus and stay walking with Him post high school.

8. How would you describe your ministry philosophy? Relational.
#1 Parents are number one. They are the most important relationship and influence in the faith development of their children.

#2 Seeing that a lot of students these days come from broken homes, dysfunctional families, and don’t have parents intentional about faith development, other caring adults and Christian friends are needed. A phrase from working at Indian Hills Camp would be my primary ministry model…”First I learn to love my youth leader and then I learn to love their God.”  That is why developing small groups, and a great volunteer team are so important. We need lots of caring adults to relationally pour into youth. I like the Jesus model. 1:12. Students need a small community to relationally connect to, especially in a large church setting.  

9. What is your favorite youth ministry resource?
Right now it’s a website called Blue Fish TV. I love using stories to share God’s story. Students remember stories. Jesus used a lot of stories to communicate God’s story of redemption as a teaching style.  They have great video clips to use in teaching students. I am also a big fan of Youth Specialties. I love their conferences and resources.

10. Share a favorite youth ministry moment (story).
Brand new to full time “paid” youth ministry. I was completely in charge of a youth group at Disneyland. I was young, newly married and leading my first youth group solo…as in I was the “boss.” Not an intern, no one else to pass the responsibility to.  I had gained some of the typical “we just got married” now I can get fat pounds. Feeling insecure I decided to wear my “slimming” and very pretty undergarments that I had worn on my wedding day to Disneyland. Bad idea. 

 After Space Mountain and a nonstop morning of Disneyland fun with a dozen middle schoolers, I was feeling horrible. Midday, I remember thinking I am really sick. I wanted to go home, but wait I can’t! I am in charge. If I leave, we all leave. Also along on this trip were my husband Tim and another volunteer. That was it. We didn’t have an extra vehicle. I decided to tough it out. Well moments later I was standing by the Sleeping Beauty Castle and had to spew… as discreetly as possible I began to throw up while standing next to a middle school girl named Jenny. She was turned the other way and when she turned back around I pretended to cough.  It was before texting and everyone owning cell phones, so there was no help to immediately locate. There was no “hey Jenny you go with the other group and I will meet up with you later.” Nope it was me, needing to barf with a group of girls along for the ride. No help in sight.

This was the kind of sick that immediately hits at both ends if you know what I mean. So when I was discreetly spewing out front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle, I was also soiling my beautiful wedding undergarments.  I deemed an immediate bathroom break. I quickly cleaned up and left the wedding ware in a trash can in the ladies stall at the bathroom on Main Street in Disneyland. I spent the rest of the day without the comfort of underwear and feeling pretty miserable. 

The lesson learned in my first days of being a young 22 year old just married youth leader?  Don’t go it alone. Youth ministry is meant for a team. Bring reinforcements. A second backup vehicle and modern day conveniences like cell phones help too. But hey…it’s Disneyland your cell phone battery would have died and lacked any good cell to cell reception in the middle of thousands of people.  SO DON’T do it alone and have back up plans for last minute emergencies. Teams are essential in youth ministry and come dressed for the occasion. It's youth ministry not a high school reunion.


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