A few dos and don'ts for new youth ministers

If you're just starting in youth ministry or are starting a program in a new church, here are a few suggestions on dos and don'ts to help you.

Do introduce yourself. Host a family night with kids and parents. Keep it casual. Have some games and food. Take an opportunity at the beginning to get to know one another. 

Don't try to be like the last youth leader. You aren't going to be the last youth leader because, hello, you're you. You're going to bring your own gifts and personality to the table and just by doing that you're going to bring your own unique stamp to the program.

Do keep important traditions. Ask the kids if they have youth group traditions that they want to continue. You may have to prompt them a bit. Traditions include things like events they always do or ways they start or end meetings or ways they pray together. Even if you keep just one or two, that continuity is going to make it easier to keep the program continuing without a hitch.

Don't lead youth programs alone. For your safety and the safety of the youth, make sure you have an assistant with you. You can find other resources related to safety issues, including volunteer application forms and youth permission slips here.

Do put out a schedule for as many months as you can plan. Kids' schedules book early, often months in advance, so get the youth group on their main list of things to do each week! Also: parents may have a lot of ideas about what you should be doing. Keep an open mind, but remember parents are not in charge!!!

Don't make the meetings too complicated. Keep it short--1 to 2 hours, except for special events like a movie night.

Do have a tradition to start and end each meeting. And that's not limited to youth. It is calming to all ages.

Don't isolate the youth from the Church or the wider community. Inclusion is the key. Ask the senior staff about events the youth can get involved in. Offer a once a month service project. It's a great way to build community with kids and parents if you want. 

Do communicate! Use group texts to send reminders to youth. Set up a youth group Facebook page. Send a weekly email or monthly newsletter to all the parents to keep them informed. And be sure to have a piece in the church newsletter to keep the wider community up to date.

I've run out of don'ts, but here is one more do:

Do offer your youth a place to be themselves, to have fun, and to experience God's love in a safe and relaxed environment!