student ministry, youth worker, youth ministry

Rethinking Youth Worker Training

By Andy Lawrenson February 5, 2013

A few years ago we all noticed that youth workers were not attending conferences in the same numbers. Many people said it was because of the economy. I’m sure some churches were short on training funds but that was not all that was happening. There were a number of reasons why youth workers stopped attending national conferences. Money is one but also they didn’t agree with what they were hearing. Some stopped coming because the training didn’t apply to them. Some couldn’t figure out why they should listen to the same person year in and year out say the same things. Others wondered how the training applied to their situation.  Lots of reasons have led to smaller national youth worker training events.  But the main reason is that youth workers have changed.

As this change has been happening I have been asking youth workers what they want in training. I have been fascinated by what I have heard.

1. They want a forum to talk
Youth workers want to talk with each other about the challenges they face. They would rather hear from someone who is currently in a church and struggling just like them. They want to connect, they don’t just want an answer to their problem, and they want to know that their struggle is shared. They don’t want to just listen and take notes, they want to participate. Ten minutes of Q & A after a workshop is not going to cut it.

2. They want to collaborate
Youth workers want to wrestle through problems together. They want a community that understands and shares the feelings of not being able to do everything required in ministry. This can’t be created by asking strangers to sit at the same table, and have them talk over an issue for five minutes. Youth workers want to understand each other and work together towards a common goal. And real understanding of feelings takes time.

3. They want space
At most national youth worker conferences they encourage you to take time and just relax, but then they make a schedule that starts at 7:30 am and runs through midnight, making you feel like you can’t miss a thing. This leads to drinking from a firehose. I am hearing that youth workers want space to process, debrief, pray and respond. Down time to process equals change, and that happens when we have space.

4. They want focus
At most youth worker conferences there are thousands of great ideas, the only problem is you can only work on one at a time. Too many new ideas leads to no change and being overwhelmed. Sometimes it even leads to you feeling inadequate because you are not doing all these good ideas. One idea processed over a few days leads to planning and action steps that will bring growth to your ministry.

At LeaderTreks we have listened. We are working hard to incorporate these ideas into our Refuel Retreats. If you want to know more check out our website at www.refuelretreat.com to find a Refuel Retreat that works for you.

About the Author

Andy Lawrenson

Andy Lawrenson has been in student ministry for 26 years both as a volunteer and paid staff member.  Andy and his wife, Misha, have been married for 28 years and have three children: a son in middle school and twin eight-year-olds, a boy and girl. Andy loves getting together with other youth pastors to talk about…  Read More