Whether you or someone in your network is a bivocational youth worker, I think we can all agree they’re vital to the Kingdom of God and they need encouragement.
The Logos Bible-study app defines a bivocational youth leader as:
…one of the most unique, gifted, and selfless individuals in the Church. That is because they serve churches that cannot compensate them with full-time pay (or they choose to stay in another job to save the church money). They often earn income from other means, like a job in the secular marketplace or private income.
What does that mean in short? It means they’re often tired, burned out, a jack-of-all-trades, and working with no budget.
Through years of struggle as a bivocational youth leader, I’ve learned some important lessons.
1. Don’t separate the mission of the ministry and your secular work.
One thing I wish I’d learned quick was that I needed to marry the two together. For some reason, I was letting my two worlds exist apart from one another. Once the Gospel Advancing mindset saturated my ministry, I quickly saw the great need to share the Gospel with my coworkers and the people I encountered during the day. This perspective shift made my job seem a little more like ministry instead of just work. Granted, I have my days—at both my secular job and ministry—that I want to give up. If your workplace is like mine, you run into all kinds of levels of society, and they can become exhausting. With that said, it leads to the next important point.
2. Find community.
Seek out like-minded people in ministry to lean on. You need a support group, accountability partners, and someone to disciple you. One of the quickest ways to find those people is to get into a network. I was fortunate that not long after I started in youth ministry, I went to a youth ministry training and met a guy named Chris Selby, who invited me into a network. Since I joined them, we’ve built authentic relationships, and their prayers, listening ear, and encouragement save my ministry weekly. Now I coach youth leaders and give them the tools needed to stay in the fight. Do not do this alone—Jesus didn’t.
Here are a few other tips to improve your longevity:
3. Manage your time.
Effectively manage your time by creating a schedule that allows you to balance your responsibilities and create clear boundaries. Here are a few suggestions:
- Have a designated day off from ministry, and tell people you aren’t available that day.
- Don’t commit to anything new until you’ve prayed about it and thought about it for 24 hours.
- Use free curriculum to plan out a whole series for your ministry.
4. Communicate clearly.
Let your employer know about your commitments as a youth leader and let the people you work with at church know about your job schedule. It’s helpful to make sure you designate a specific time once a month where you go through your schedule for the upcoming couple of months and take the time to email both your church and work supervisors accordingly.
5. Delegate and collaborate.
Develop a team mentality by delegating tasks to capable individuals—both adult volunteers and student leaders—within your youth group. Encourage collaboration among team members, allowing them to take on responsibilities and share the workload. For example, allow student leaders or adult volunteers—or a combination of both—to teach a lesson, lead a prayer, or even plan an event. With a little coaching, these helpers will be able to lead the group effectively, so you don’t have to shoulder the responsibility alone.
6. Incorporate your home life into your ministry.
Whatever your home life looks like—single, married, kids—seek out ways to incorporate your students into your personal life. Having them over for dinner, taking them along on errands, or even recruiting them to help you out with chores can be a great way to connect with students and do life-on-life discipleship. Alternatively, look for opportunities to have family members be a part of your ministry.
With careful planning and a passion for both your work and youth leadership, you can successfully navigate the challenges of bivocational ministry and see God work in amazing ways in the lives of the young people you serve.
I hope this article helps you think about next steps and practical ways to love your job and your youth ministry like Jesus. If you have any questions or need a place to vent, hit me up at missionByouth@gmail.com.