Let’s be honest kids, being a youth worker can give you a delicious feeling of power.
As the cool teacher, relatable counsellor, replacement parent, uber best-friend, and sassy sage figure, its easy to come away from interacting with your young people feeling all powerful. I mean, you get to teach what you want, give poignant advice to hormone-ridden and desperate young people, while simultaneously beating them at all their favourite games, and letting off an all-knowing air.
You can shape theology, guide political affiliations, and even mould dreams and aspirations. You can cut down with a word and build up with a look. You can even design exactly what you think God should look like to them.
This is the responsibility of a teacher for sure (James 3:1) but it’s more than that. A youth worker is put into a much broader, potentially life-shaping context with the most vulnerable and impressionable people imaginable. It’s easy to make yourself their sole spiritual, mental and emotional guide.
So, here are ten easy things to remember next time you start coming over all Gody:
1. Just don’t
Let God be God, and you be the big arrow that points to God. When that arrow starts turning inward, run away screaming.
2. Let other people teach
Allow other voices to speak into their lives; don’t let it all come down to you.
3. Be accountable to people who actually know how to hold you accountable
Don’t have yes-men mentors. Look instead for people who know how to ask you the uncomfortable questions like, ‘have you been acting like God today?’
4. Don’t set up teachers for failure
Don’t start every sentence with ‘your teachers don’t know what they’re talking about because…’ On some occasions that’ll be true, but don’t pretend you know everything about everything, especially when the teacher isn’t there to defend themselves.
5. Don’t set them against their parents
Very similarly, make sure that you are working with parents and not against them. Parents are not always perfect, but it’s not doing anyone favours by gossiping about them to their kids to make you look cooler.
6. Say you don’t know
Don’t waffle and make stuff up when you don’t know what you’re talking about. ‘Always have an answer…’ in 1 Peter 3:15 doesn’t mean pretend you know everything. You’re not all-knowing; say you don’t know and ask what they think. Explore stuff together.
7. Keep tight control of your boundaries
Don’t be omniscient – by which I mean always available. Keep to your working hours and days off. Keep your personal numbers personal, and don’t drop everything to be available.
8. Point to other resources and connect to other people
Your job is to facilitate the young people within the Body of Christ, so do just that. All roads should not point back to you, but they can converge on you as you help them connect to awesome resources and people that can do what you can’t
9. Remember who your God is
Keep your relationship with God fuelled and growing. Keeping yourself in humble perspective with Him should help you stay in the healthy human zone.
10. Don’t be an ass
When things don’t go your way, deal with it like a person, not an overly-justice-obsessed wrath mongerer. You’re not perfect, nobody is. Conflicts will happen and mistakes will too – get on with things. Apologise, forgive, move on, and be that big arrow that points back to God.