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Looking After & Managing A Youth Worker

Posted on: January 9, 2016

Sadly, it’s not unusual for a youth worker to burn out or last a relatively short period of time in one place (or even in youth ministry full stop) and whilst there may be a variety of contributing factors to this often it’s that they’re simply not looked after well. This isn’t to say that churches don’t want to look after their youth workers but that often it just doesn’t happen.

This blog isn’t a definitive guide and I’m no expert in management however it is a series of tips/advice that I can pass on from my time both as a youth worker and managing youth workers. There’s also a great Grove Booklet called ‘Supervising Youth Workers’ here.

1 – Youth Workers want to work!
I’ve never come across a youth worker who doesn’t want to be working with young people. Youth leaders want to be spending their time with young people, creating exciting plans and serving God in their ministry. When managing a youth worker it’s totally worth having this in mind…a youth worker is more likely to overwork than underwork.

2 – More Isn’t More!
In the past I’ve felt the pressure to be doing loads and to always be busy but the truth is that doing more stuff often leads to the quality of your work dropping. When I’ve lost days off and had a million-and-one things to plan I’ve realised that actually the quality of the time I’ve been spending with young people and the quality of the sessions I’ve led has dropped. A youth worker doing more isn’t always a youth worker having a bigger impact.

3 – Timesheets
I’ve heard arguments for and against timesheets but find them a really useful tool. CYM require their students to keep timesheets to prove their hours for their JNC qualification and I personally keep one and ask our gap year team member to keep one as well.

For me asking team members (including myself) to keep a timesheet isn’t about micro-managing or checking they they’re doing the hours the should be (I don’t think I’ve ever worried about a youth worker doing too few a hours!) but it’s about them staying accountable and, when, in youth ministry, one week can be manic and another really quiet a timesheet allows you to keep balance.

4 – Care About Your Youth Worker
This may seem like a ridiculous statement to even include in this blog but it’s important. Sadly, in the past I’ve come across churches that are so focused on what a youth worker is doing for them that they fail to notice the decline of a youth worker’s health, lack of social time outside of work or breakdown of personal relationships. The more of these stories I hear and the longer I’m in youth ministry the more I’m convinced that it’s absolutely paramount that we when managing a youth worker we take an approach that aims to look after our staff and not just our youth work because in doing both we will help create youth worker’s who are in youth ministry for the long haul and youth ministry that sets good examples to young people. The church should be known for caring about people.

This might include asking youth workers if they’ve had time off (and encouraging it if they haven’t), creating a management relationship where they can genuinely share how they are (not just how the work is going) and keeping an eye out for when a youth worker seems worn out or down and perhaps needs to be encouraged to take an extra day (or week) off.

5 – Encourage Personal Growth
One of the challenges of being in youth ministry is often that it’s difficult to find space for your own faith and so, in managing youth workers it’s important that we encourage them to grow. This requires 2 areas of focus:

  • Spiritual Development – it’s important that as those managing youth workers we encourage the spiritual development of youth workers. This might be through encouraging them to take retreat days and maybe even providing suggestions on what this could look like, encouraging them to be part of a small group in a church (not necessarily your church) where they can be themselves and even encourage them to have a mentor or spiritual director.
  • Personal Development – it’s also important that we encourage those working with us to continue to develop personally. Richard Branson once said ‘Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to‘, therefore, as we manage youth workers it’s really important that we give them opportunities to grow and develop. This could be through enabling them to go on short courses or even do longer periods of study such as MA courses…if your church can fund this then even better!

Whilst this blog isn’t an extensive guide and doesn’t include any structures for management meetings or appraisals (I’ll write another blog on this) I hope it gives you some food for thought. The 5 points made in this are incredibly important and, I believe, if you try and follow them when managing youth worker’s you’ll see your staff and youth ministry thrive.

if you have any other tips then be sure to comment with them!