Any ministry can be very isolating, and at times, like you’re on a deserted island. If you’ve been in youth ministry for five weeks or five years, there will be seasons when you feel you are all alone. In a connectional system, it should be easy to network with others, but time, distance, and energy often take priority over camaraderie. In less time than a three hour tour, you can begin to cast away the feelings of Robinson Crusoe.
Message in a bottle
You need to send out some message-filled bottles. Just as we carve out time for reading Scripture, working on messages, and praying, you are going to have to make time for connecting with others. Set aside a specific time each week to get in touch with others and don’t be afraid to send out lots of bottles. It could be as simple as phone calls or hand written postcards, but often starts with just finding out about the churches who are around you. Often this first move will create ample encounters for colleagues.
Get off your island
Connecting with others in youth ministry is going to require you to leave the comfort zone of the walls of your church. There may be groups that are already meeting, and those invitations have been going to your junk e-mail folder, or they are not aware that you are in your ministry setting, even if you’ve been there for years. Frequently I’ve let my preconceived notions of groups hinder my participation or that individuals wouldn’t want to meet with me. Different times and settings will force you to be the one to create a new group and to go to them.
Islands in the archipelago
It is sometimes pleasant to discover, especially if you are in a smaller ministry setting, connections with youth workers in other denominations. Often they are sharing similar students and partnering with parallel parents. Working together in a common environment may create new opportunities that you hadn’t thought previously available. Whether it is something as simple as being aware of each other’s major events or sharing common connections with community chiefs. Our local Habitat for Humanity offers special build days for folks who work at partner churches and I’ve had some great conversations while putting up siding.
Don’t be afraid to send out a S.O.S.
As with any aspect of ministry, you should not feel that you have to do it alone. Remember that Jesus extended partnership opportunities to others, as well as having folks reach out to connect with him. Sometimes these colleagues weren’t what was expected or anticipated. With the transitory nature that often accompanies youth ministry, it may take several proactive attempts to link up with the connectional resources in your area of town, district, or conference. It’s also important to make sure your supervisor or whomever you report to know what you are feeling, so that they are aware and may be able to offer assistance.