Friend to Father: Youth Ministry Seasons, reflections, and thoughts from 28 years of youth ministry.
I didn’t think it would ever happen, but it has! I have become a youth pastor and a father of two students. In fact, I just watched my daughter graduate from High School and my youth ministry while my son moved from my middle school ministry to my high school ministry.
This new season of my life and ministry career has kept me thinking about the seasons of youth ministry that have moved me over 28 years from friend to father.
Season 1: Good Friend
Early in youth ministry, only a few years older than my students, my role resembles that of a good friend. I was seen less as an adult authority and more as an older positive peer relationship.
This season came with its pros and cons. A student may have been more willing to talk about certain things but often was less inclined to show appropriate respect. The line between friendly and friendship was easily blurred.
- If this is your season of life, cautiously cherish the relationships you build with your students. Enjoy the time and the level of the connection while also being intentional about establishing yourself as an adult.
Season 2: Big Brother (*Big Sister)
As the age gap grew between my students and me, I found myself moving from being seen as a peer to the role of a slightly older protector, like a big brother.
During these years, both my guys and girls saw me through the lens of the relationship as older and wiser. This season brought less challenge to my authority and a new level of respect.
- If this is your season of youth ministry, use it to stand up for your students both in the world and in the church. Defend and protect them as younger brothers and sisters in the family of God.
Season 3: Cool Uncle (*Cool Aunt)
Seen as an adult and an older authority figure, I took on the role of relevant philosopher, dispensing adult wisdom and insights while maintaining a level of relational connection.
My role as an adult and respected authority was established ed. It was a season with ministry comprehension that allowed me to lead well as a bridge between students and parents. I was seen as someone to listen to and approach for advice by both students and adults alike.
- If this is your season, become the guide on the side of both students and parents. Use the opportunity of being seen as a relevant and knowing adult to lead the whole family, not just students.
Season 4: Caring Father (*Caring Mother)
The season of mature ministry longevity I find myself in is a loving parent, not just to your own child but also to all my students. I am no longer just a peer, older protector, or guiding philosopher. I now can take on the Godly reflection of The Father. This season marks a coming of age in youth ministry and longevity as a spiritual parent and partner.
- If this is your season or will be soon, make it a partnership with parents. Seek to become a partner of discipleship in their children’s lives, as you would want someone to do the same for you as a parent.
Whatever your age or season, recognize the blessing of the moment. Allow God to use the present as a gift. It is in your calling. Live in and through the moment so He can continue the path to ministry longevity.