Tips for Starting a New Youth Ministry Position

Are you just getting started in a new youth ministry position? Wondering where to start or what your ministry priorities should be your first year at a new church? This past week, I received an email from a youth ministry pal asking for my advice on best practices for getting started in a new youth ministry
position. It's a good question, and one I get asked often, so thought I'd share my reply with you all. Here are a few ideas for beginning a new youth ministry position well: 

Download a seminar from Youth Specialties NYWC
about the first two years of youth ministry. I know Katie Edwards and Josh Griffin have an awesome workshop you can purchase and download HERE  Some of it won't be new to you, unless you are truly brand spankin new to youth ministry. This seminar will be a much needed refresher and will provide you with helpful "oh yeah!" ideas. Even as a youth ministry veteran, I am always learning new things [or things I forgot!] And a new ministry is still NEW even if you’ve been in youth ministry awhile.  Or get the book. The seminar is probably more current, since the book is old [2002]  It will remind you of some of those basic first steps and priorities as you get settled in a new ministry.  

Purchase the updated version of Youth Ministry Management Tools 2.0
This was one of my favorite resources “back in the day” and I am thrilled it’s been re-vamped since the original came out forever ago in 2001. It’s a great resource and will help you to hit the ground running. There is also a Youth Ministry Management Tools seminar from the most recent National Youth Workers Convention you can purchase and download from YS.

Learn from my first year. I’ve only been here in Grand Rapids since 2013, so I totally understand and am living in that "starting right" at a new church reality.

1. When I started this new gig, my supervisor gave me a timeline with a list of tasks to accomplish, books to read, and priorities to focus on. Everything he outlined for me on a "first year" to-do list was really helpful in getting acquainted with this place.  Ask your supervisor or head of staff for books to read that are favorites to help you get to know your new context. Ask who the key volunteers and parents are that you should spend time getting to know.  

2. I went to some of the classes that new members/visitors would attend. You know the type. Only ours has cool names like Connect and Immerse, but these classes are pretty much the equivalent of a new members class or "our church 101" type of thing. Going to these classes was also on that pretty genius list my boss gave me.  

3. I took each staff person [well almost all of them] out to lunch or coffee and asked them what they do here. I learned what their role is here at church and discovered how they became a part of this church community.  This was also on that magical to-do list. 

4. I met with key ministry volunteers for the same reason as above.

5. Learn names ASAP. My awesome admin assistant put together a 3 ring binder filled with picture rosters of all my students and leaders. Learning names was priority #1.  

6. I put volunteer bdays on my calendar and made a "drive by" at their work with a bday treat/coffee/or bagel on the week of their bday.  My #2 priority for year ONE [after learning names] was to get to know my team and help them get to know and love me.  As I got to know these wonderful people, I was in a much better position to effectively access the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of the ministry I was hired to lead.

7. There was a strategic communications plan put in place for introducing me to staff, parents, volunteers, etc. [set up by my supervisor and communications team]. A communications plan is a well thought out schedule of emails and events introducing you to staff, parents, students, and the larger church community. Work through these things with the person or committee hiring you.  Most of the time the person or team who is charged with doing the hiring, are the ones who make the initial introductory emails or letters sent home. 

8. Time is your friend. Nothing feels better than beginning year two looking into faces of people you actually know. You will get there.  Events, programs, and people might feel foreign for a little while. You might not feel like you are "home" right away. You will get to know people. You will learn how to disarm the church alarm system without digging through your purse for the alarm code you can never remember. You will figure out where all the light switches are. You will learn which of the five keys opens your office door and which one opens the youth room storage area.  You will master the church coffee maker. You will find the best bathroom to use that middle schoolers and preschoolers haven't peed all over. 

All in time my friend. You might even make best friends who know where to buy really great tacos. 


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