Do Students Expect Anything from Youth Workers?

By Doug Franklin June 17, 2020

No Expectations

When I went to my first junior high youth group meeting, I distinctly remember thinking, “This youth guy is weird, and I can’t wait for this to be over.”

Youth group in 1970 was a lot of long hair, wackiness, and guitar playing. This was back when They Will Know We Are Christian By Our Love was big. Youth ministry was new at my church and the louder and crazier the better. As a junior high boy, I couldn’t fit boring church together with wild fun. It just didn’t make sense to me.

real expectations

When I went to high school youth group, I had real expectations of my youth pastor—mostly because my brother was older and had a really good experience with his youth pastor. My major expectations were that he was going to be my friend and that we were going to have fun!

My expectations were quickly dashed when we went through seven youth workers in two years. I began to believe that youth ministry was whatever my friends and I made it.

This question of expectations started me thinking about today’s students.

Do they have any expectations of their youth workers?

Are students so jaded by their church experiences that they don’t care about youth group, leading them to believe that youth workers won’t have any impact on their lives?

This may be how many of your students think and feel, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have influence on them.

We need a shift in our thinking.

Instead of thinking that they need to listen to us because we are their youth pastor, we need to listen to them and understand their world so we can have a relationship with them—a relationship that goes beyond face and facts to feelings, fears, and faith.

We need to move away from positional leadership to relational leadership.

What students expect to hear from us:

  • God is waiting for you to screw up.
  • If you question God, you don’t love him.
  • If you don’t do want God wants, God won’t give you what you need.
  • Come to youth group.
  • Pray this prayer…

What students don’t expect us to say:

  • God loves you no matter what.
  • Jesus is in pursuit of you.
  • Jesus doesn’t need you, but he invites you to come to him because he loves you.
  • I love you no matter what, and I want to know about your pain.
  • Your fears and pain are known by God—he sees you.

Our best tool to impact students may be surprise. I don’t think they will see us coming. They think they know who we are and what we want from them. If we flip the script, we might catch them off guard and earn a chance to have an authentic relationship with them. 

We can’t compromise who we are or what we stand for, but we need to drop our addiction to being the center of attention. Ask students questions about them, value how they feel and what they believe, win them with care for them. Students don’t have many people in their lives who love them for who they are, so be that person and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to call them to Christ.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More