What is our role as youth workers?

My role as a youth worker is to live, honestly, my own journey toward Christlikeness with and in front of the teenagers in my midst. I can’t change teenagers—that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. I’m not directly in the transformation business; I’m in the transformation hosting business.

Hosting is a metaphor that brings up sub-metaphors like stewarding (“How do I steward the time I have with teenagers in a way that best exposes them to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit?”), curation (“How can I highlight and bring attention to the good stuff God is already doing in the world and in the lives of teenagers?”), and evangelist.

Wait—did I just write evangelist?

Yup—but I don’t mean it in the way you might think. I mean it in the same way that Apple might have an evangelist on staff. My role as a youth worker is to be the evangelist for teenagers in my church. I am the lead banner-waver for teenagers in my congregation (or one of them, since I’m on a team), reminding people in the congregation of their responsibility to collectively engage with the teenagers in their midst.

6 thoughts on “What is our role as youth workers?”

  1. Marko, any specific thoughts on what this looks like for middle school ministry? Especially the idea of helping them see the work of the holy spirit. It’s such an abstract concept.

  2. well, first of all, i think this is would be a perspective shift for lots of youth workers. if one’s paradigm is “my role is to put on programs,” or “my role is to teach teenagers the right stuff,” then this will feel foreign. so, first, my suggestion (not all that specific) is that we put on a mindset of hosting interactions between teenagers and God (don’t get hung up on my use of Holy Spirit). we create environments where teenagers and God are more likely to bump into one another.

    in a sense, this isn’t any different for JHers, although the impact (or “results”) will often be difficult to see immediately. but JHers are VERY experiential in their approach to understanding what’s true. maybe this is even MORE true than it is for HSers, who have more developed abstract and critical thinking. JHers don’t have much else to go on other than “how does this feel?” and “what does my experience tell me?” so — think of yourself as a tour guide. a great tour guide helps the traveler to understand and interpret what they’re seeing and experiencing. they don’t only point the way — they curate the experience. JHers REALLY need this.

  3. Marko,
    The ministry I lead has a lot of students who are growing in their faith and I’d say our environment suits the 95% who seem to be want to grow. I’ve got this group of a few 8th grade boys that seem to be totally resistant. We’re continuing to have issues with basic areas of respect like not talking when someone is praying, not being loud and joking around during worship, etc. I’ve explained to them a million times that I don’t want to force their faith. I don’t want them to fake it during worship. I not making them believe what we teach. We’re simply asking them to show respect when they step into that environment…now to my questions.

    How do you create a space that exposes those students while still maintaining a transformative environment for the ones who want to grow?


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