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Serving a congregation as a faith formation and/or youth ministry leader is pretty easy, right? All you have to do is prepare for Sunday programs and then show up to lead them, right? I’m being facetious, of course. Anyone who is familiar with ministry in a local congregation understands that whenever people are involved, many more hours are needed in order to support individuals, maintain effective communication, and stay current on the best resources available.
So what does a congregation need to do in order to support its faith formation and/or youth ministry leaders, that they may serve their congregation most effectively? Here are 7 key ways that can ensure your congregation will receive the best from its faith formation staff person:
Clear Job Description and Expectations
A job description with clear roles and responsibilities, a plan for oversight, and an evaluation process will help to avoid misunderstandings among leadership roles. A job description needs to be adapted and updated to meet the changing needs of both the staff person and the congregation.
Faith Formation and/or Youth Ministry Committee
No matter the size of your congregation, the staff person cannot possibly do it all on their own. A faith formation committee can assist with policy-making, communication, recruitment, taking care of program specifics, as well as serving as a sounding board for plans and dreams. This group also can help guard against the “Lone Ranger Syndrome” in a staff person. Assemble a team with a variety of gifts and skills to manage all of the necessary tasks successfully.
Parish Relations Committee
Having a small group of trusted people to hear your staff person’s concerns, alongside relating back constructive feedback from the congregation, is a good way to keep communication flowing and provide direct support for your staff person. This group can also lift up and celebrate the gifts of this person to the congregation, particularly when they are working behind the scenes. Unless your congregation worships intergenerationally each week, much of the faith formation and youth ministry is accomplished out of sight from the main gatherings of the congregation. This committee can help the rest of the congregation to know what these staff persons do every day, not just on Sunday!
Ensure that your faith formation staff person’s contract and your church budget allow the funding, time, and support for them to attend a conference, take courses, and/or attend workshops. This will keep them on top of their ministry, and your people and your programs will surely benefitting from these opportunities as well. The Southern New England Conference offers a Faith Formation Leadership (Certificate) Program that consists of classes for everyone from seasoned professionals to those just starting out, as well as for interested lay persons.
While an annual evaluation process may appear foreboding at the outset, the absence of such a process can be interpreted as a lack of caring for the staff person and what they do. Encouraging your faith formation and/or youth ministry leader to set goals and annually reflect on how they were or were not achieved. Talk about how these faith formation and youth ministry goals support the mission of the entire church. This is a good way to help both the staff person and the congregation to grow in this ministry together.
Begin your staff person’s ministry in your congregation with a service of covenanting. (Don’t forget to include food!) Celebrate key anniversaries. Send birthday cards and other such greetings at appropriate times of the year. Thank your staff person regularly, particularly for all of the behind-the-scenes work that most people don’t see and aren’t aware of.
Recognize Stress and Burnout
Know the signs of stress and burnout. Be sure that the appropriate person or persons sit down with your staff person if they notice these signs. Managing all of the program and congregational details in faith formation ministries can be overwhelming. And it can feel all the more overwhelming if the congregation expects the staff to handle it all themselves. Help to develop a culture of volunteering, care, and support within your congregation. Help the staff person with their time management skills, if needed. And be sure to maintain open communication at all times to alleviate future burnout and stress.
Of course there are far more than 7 ways to support your faith formation and/or youth ministry staff members. I hope you will use these recommendations and your imagination to celebrate the gift you have in those who are passionate about faith formation and youth ministries.
Please visit our SNEUCC faith formation and youth and young adult ministry webpages for resources to support your staff leaders, particularly the Hiring Faith Formation and Youth Ministry Leaders page that includes:
Helpful handbooks and guides
A discernment process for ministry
Job description templates
Ministry codes and resources
And much more!
Your Faith Formation Ministry Team is always available to assist you and your congregation in supporting your faith formation and youth ministries, staff persons, and in the search and call process.
Debbie Gline Allen serves as a Minister of Faith Formation on the Conference’s Faith Formation Ministry Team. She also serves as the administrator of the SNEUCC Faith Formation Leadership Program. Her passion for ministry is with children and family...