Rev. Charlie Alcock, Youth Ministry professor and director of Youth Ministry Events at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana, reflects on the 30 years he has spent serving in youth ministry in The Wesleyan Church. This is part three in a three-part series. Read part one and part two.
21. Don’t experiment on teens! Simply an embarrassing practice. We do this with two groups, the young and the old, and it’s not respectful or honoring to them. Youth ministry should not be the time that you make a bunch of mistakes and then move on. Remember, we don’t get this time back with them.
22. When you walk into a room filled with middle school students, they ask, “Do you like me?” When you walk into a room filled with high school students, they ask, “Do I like you?” This is not an absolute, but it’s pretty close.
23. Just because it’s new to you doesn’t mean it’s new. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s bad. The goal is to be effective. I was at a camp this summer that did something that I did when I was a camper in high school. I’ll never forget East-Michigan District youth camp up at Vassar (Wesleyan Woods) and what happened that night. Guess what, the same thing happened at this camp, this summer, because some things never change — praise God!
24. Social practices we may adhere to as adults are not always acceptable with adolescents. We must be aware of how we function as adults with social media, our phones, email and more. A good example is accessibility. I can connect late into the night with a friend on the West Coast and think nothing of it. However, with adolescents, it’s both an amazing and dangerous tool at the same time. We need to constantly think about how we steward it specifically during times of the day and evening.
25. Passion for truth has not wavered, but our commitment to deliver it has at times been hijacked. We have a tendency to focus on issues that vex us. Our task is to think of world events through a biblical lens. Be careful not to preach on personal pet peeves. The gospel is big enough to consume every opportunity we have to share with them.
26. If you have never raised teenagers, don’t act like you know what it’s like and don’t judge parenting so harshly. Just wait, and this experience will change your opinion and perspective.
27. Working hard and protecting your Sabbath is biblical. Don’t use one against the other to mask a problem.
28. Ask questions as it helps you understand what others’ perspectives are. Don’t do this if you really don’t care. Then you will find yourself on a deserted island and that, to me, is really boring.
29. Ephesians 4 is biblical and relevant right now. All are called to be witnesses and we should celebrate that in all vocations. From the Old Testament to the New, God frequently called people to himself and to his work. For example, Abraham was called to leave his home and to travel to a place of promise (Genesis 12:1–9). Paul was “called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1 and 1 Corinthians 1:1) and noted in his letter to the Ephesian church that God “gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11, KJV). These roles were vital in order to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, ESV).
Note: I know of at least 12 churches looking to hire full-time ministry positions. Check with The Wesleyan Church Headquarters or your college or university.
30. Keep dreaming, believing and pushing forward. Try to get better every day, even just a little. I would suggest dreaming with people that will allow it and encourage you to press forward. At the same time, they will guide you when you’re off course. The key, they believe in you and even more, that God is in you.
Final thought: The incredible things of God that we all desire begin with everyday ordinary acts of obedience.