Nobody practices youth ministry by themselves. Rather, nobody should; the image of the independent magnetic youth worker with a preternatural gift for relating to teenagers causes real harm to the craft. Those who work with youth groups also work with groupings of adults–parents, coaches, teachers, and, of course, volunteers. Youth ministry is only partly about youth.
It is also about this constellation of grown ups who are shaping teens’ lives. We get to inject some intention into that shaping with our volunteers and parents, which is why scheduling training and other volunteer enrichment events is so important. It’s also why listening to the parents of teens in our sphere matters so much.
The coaches and teachers almost seem like invisible adversaries to youth workers when our students’ weekends get swallowed up by tournaments and homework. It doesn’t have to be though. I used to play softball with a high school teacher who had one of our church’s youth in his biology class. Beyond bio, this teacher facilitated the formation of a cohort of peers around a role playing game they were into. They played daily in his office over lunch. Likewise, last week I met a student at his squash lesson, and the chance to watch his coach taught me a thing or two. I’m glad to know that coach now.
Youth ministers attend to an ecosystem of care and influence at work in the lives of teenagers. We recognize our place in that ecosystem, not disparaging the other parts, but looking for ways to partner and to bless. Youth ministry is as much about adults as it is youth.