“Youth Ministry is a messy world and having the experience to share and learn from my peers helped me realize it’s not just me. It’s not just me that struggles with staff relations. It’s not just me that struggles with my students’ level of commitment. It’s not just me that feels like my parents don’t get it. YMI helped build my confidence and know I’m not the only one out there facing these challenges.”
– Elizabeth Lynn, YMI class of 2009
“You’re a pastor, a recruiter, a travel agent, a friend and cheerleader, and an administrator all at once,” says Elizabeth Lynn, a 2009 graduate of YMI. “To top it off, most youth pastor just get thrown into the job; no training or job shadowing. Just figure it out.” Elizabeth began her job as a youth minister at the age of 27. She legitimately knew youth ministry when she began. She grew up in a highly active local church youth ministry. She worked three summers while she was in college as the summer intern for her youth minister. She experienced success, receiving many compliments from those with whom she worked.
However, one year into her first full time job as THE youth minister, she knew she was in trouble. She followed a string of four youth ministers in 18 months. There were close to 30 youth attending, which was small in comparison to the size of the church. Expectations were high. Elizabeth was hired to revive the youth ministry. Says Elizabeth in reflection, “So many churches want vibrant, thriving, spiritually strong youth programs yet they don’t want to pay for someone with those qualifications. So instead they hire the “fun, young” person and then wonder why things don’t go the way they envisioned.” Recognizing that she was the fun, young person with just enough experience to get the job was a wake-up call for her. Elizabeth’s church enrolled her in YMI after the first year. The youth ministry began to expand. She developed a tradition of breakfast meetings before school (the high school is on adjacent property to the church) and eventually expanded to having breakfast with students nearly every day of the week.
She integrated a system of progressive mission trips to teach young people how to serve and why Christians serve in so many different ways. At the end of five years nearly 120 youth were active in the ministry (a 400% increase), with over 100 attending a mission trip her final summer.
An expanding program can cause many challenges. Interpersonal relationships become more complex. Finances can be confusing without enough money to pay for all of the activities since more people are attending than originally planned. The Youth Ministry Institute walked Elizabeth through these expansion challenges. “Before YMI I felt like no one really understood what I was going through. For once I was with a group of people who understood the mission trip I took with 40 middle schoolers in NO WAY qualified as a Vacation.”
There are always challenges to overcome in youth ministry. Some are a result of failure. Some are the result of success. Both are relevant learning opportunities. Elizabeth grew, as do most YMI youth ministers, through each.
“There were so many things about YMI that were beneficial! I truly am so thankful for my time with YMI.”