In this final piece on why boundaries in youth ministry are essential, we look at a realistic perspective and healthy approach to boundaries.
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Boundaries Are Like Gates
So what is one to do in youth ministry? There are countless books, journals, seminars, conventions, videos, magazines, etc., that address anything from the methodology, philosophy and theology of youth ministry, to the mechanics of how to do a decent job of Shaving Cream Wars. Resources for youth ministry are truly excellent and seem limitless. Until you get creamed. Then the pickings are slim. But plan on getting creamed. It will happen. It is only a matter of time before something painful comes alongside you and snuggles up close in for a spell. And know that it will happen more than once, unless you are very fortunate, or you jump ship frequently.
Roland Martinson, a veteran pastor in the Lutheran Church writes:
The history of primarily calling inexperienced and inadequately trained young people to do youth ministry reflects the myth that youth ministry is a beginner’s job that does not require much education, experience or skill. Nothing could be further from the truth. Youth ministry is one of the most demanding ministries—so demanding and frustrating that many pastors and congregational leaders don’t know what to do….
Excellence in youth ministry requires persons of lively faith, solid theological understandings, substantial relational skills considerable organizational ability, and maturity. Youth ministry requires competence. It is a challenging task that can be learned. It is worthy of aspiration and thorough preparation by our best youth and adult lay leadership as well as our best pastors. [Roland D. Martinson, Effective Youth Ministry: A Congregational Approach, 16-17].
Boundaries Protect Us…All of Us
In other words, youth ministry is much more difficult than “regular” ministry (read “adult”). The reasons include the nature of ministry, the radical changes of adolescence and the challenges that it brings to you and your kids, the broad expectations that you bring to ministry and everyone else brings to you, the long hours, the lack of affirmation, inadequate support networks (especially compared to those available to clergy), generally poor salaries…. Well, you get the point.
For too many youth ministers (and “regular” ministers), not recognizing the need for establishing and maintaining boundaries has brought them to the utter brink of a major faith-crisis. And for too many of these, the pain and stress of living with insufficient boundaries have pushed them to the brink. Not only do they leave their ministry, but they also leave the church altogether.
It doesn’t need to be that way.
(The content of this blog comes from my book The Ultimate Survival Guide For Youth Ministers; Maintaining Boundaries in Youth Ministry. You can preview it on the Amazon page.)
What is your ministry experience? Are there healthy resources you have found?