The 3 Most Important Skills Youth Workers Should Have

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You can’t be good at everything.

You can’t be good at everything. You don’t need to be good at everything. And lots of stuff you are really good at, or are hoping to become good at, don’t really matter too much at the end of the day. So what if we narrowed it down to only THREE things youth workers do need to be good at; what might be the top three universal skills of a youth worker? NOTE: I purposely left “spiritual” things such as prayer life, integrity, etc. off the list because (whether true or not) I’m gonna assume we’ve got that stuff dialed in.

My List:

The ability to be a fantastic active listener. Just being a good listener isn’t enough, but being a fantastic active listener means you are listening, responding with guiding questions, probing here and there, and picking up on themes that you might want to dig into deeper at another time.

Patience. Patience makes almost everything better! Being patient with the annoying students, the struggling students, the cocky students, the “church” students, parents, elders, volunteers, yourself, and the whole “process” of youth ministry and discipleship may be the most underrated but important skill/mindset you can have.

A strong work ethic. This next statement won’t win me many fans, but here it goes: Lots of youth workers are lazy. To be specific, lots of full-time youth workers are lazy. We have somehow confused reading blogs, downloading sweet apps and checking the Instagrams of our students as hard work. Don’t get me wrong, times have changed and how we work is in a state of flux, but (and here’s the money tip … ) many of the people we work for such as senior pastors, elders, parents, etc. don’t yet “get it” and still expect us to be willing to do the nitty-gritty grunt work every now and again. When we complain that we haven’t had a day off in almost an entire week, or insist on taking an extra day off after the grueling scavenger hunt we led for our small group, they have a hard time feeling our pain. Here’s a tough question: If an elder followed you around for a week, would he feel compelled to recommend you for a raise or that you be replaced with a part-time college student?

What skills would be at the top of your list?  

Kurt Johnston Kurt Johnston has been involved in junior high ministry since 1988 and is currently the junior high pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He's the author of Controlled Chaos: Making Sense of Junior High Ministry and Go Team! He loves providing resources for junior high ministry almost as much as he loves junior highers themselves.

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  • i12know

    Team Building should be important too. Many youth pastor runs a good youth programs, but can’t raise a team of volunteering staff.

  • phil

    Teachability… not sure if that is a skill, and along with it stick-to-it-ive-ness… learn all you can but in the end, follow God regardless. Definately agree with the list though, and with team building.

  • jean

    Team working brings a spirit of unity. Galatians 5:22- having the fruit of the spirit in you. I agree with your list especially to anyone who can understand and be teachable. Most youth tend to have the spirit of I know much better than you, the spirit of self-centeredness, I would encourage more of this for us to learn.


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