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The Youth Minister’s office

So, let me ask you, when you go into your office, does it look like this…

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or this…

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This week, I’ll be moving into an all new office. Having numerous youth ministry friends, I’ve seen the gamut of office set ups. Most have tended more towards option #1, but I’ve also seen my share of #2. As I get ready to set everything up for myself (again), I thought I’d share some thoughts on how best to organize your office…

1. Keep it professional – One of the biggest jokes/complaints about youth minister’s’ offices is that they look like a trash compactor exploded. Old pizza boxes, curriculum from 1984 (complete with flannel graph), and something…furry. Even if it doesn’t look like a set from “The Garbage Pail Kids – The movie”, you have to remember that what you put on the walls, have on your desk, or have on your bookshelves portrays an image. Do you want the first thing parents who are entrusting you with their sweet children to see is that “tasteful” picture of you using the toilet? Look at your office through the eyes of a parent, your Senior minister, and an outsider and say, “What will they think when they see this?”

2. Have personality – While our offices should be professional, we shouldn’t just clone a cubicle from “Office Space” (complete with red swingline stapler). Your office should communicate, within tasteful boundaries, who you are and what you’re about. Photos of your family, of your students, that goofy “No Parking” sign, a lava lamp, mementos from that mission trip you took last year, whatever. When someone walks into your office, they should be able to clearly identify what you value and your personality.

3. Make it welcoming – Your office will often become a hub of students hanging out at different times during the week. You will also likely have meetings with parents, volunteers, and church staff. Other people should feel comfortable coming in and sitting down. For me, that involved an old love seat, a portable fridge stocked with pop, and goofy toys that the teens loved to play with (note – a dart board will bring lots of attention…and lots of holes in the wall). However you set it up, it should be somewhere that others will feel comfortable coming into.

4. Create workable spaces – You will spend much of your office time writing lessons, planning events, and other such office work. Be sure to keep that in mind when you set things up. Think about how you work. Do you like to have somewhere comfortable to sit or recline as you think? Or do you work better on a desk and big backed chair? However you function, keep in mind that how you will spend your time and plan accordingly.

5. Stay organized – I am terrible at this. I had so many piles of “need to file” stuff. What ended up happening is I would lose stuff, or shuffle piles around until I needed to take a whole day to get back to organized. Find a simple organizational system that works and then stick to it, it will help. As best you can, avoid paper. I have taken to the “touch it once” system – read it, then do something about it, file it, or trash it. That will help to avoid the pile syndrome that causes so many problems.

6. Keep yourself safe – This covers a number of areas. First of all, if you can, get a door with a window. This covers you in the case of accountability – no one can say you were doing anything untoward behind closed and locked doors. Secondly, get a lock both for your door and for sensitive files. You likely will have lots of private data – you will be liable if it gets lost or stolen. Finally, don’t keep any money or checks (from other people) in your office. Pass them off to someone ASAP. This prevents people from accusing you and it helps you not lose them.

7. Remind you of your purpose – Every time you walk into your office, it should remind you that your job is not about being inside those four walls. Its about ministering to the teens in your community. Hang tons of pictures of your teens. My youth minister growing up had pictures of all of us underneath a glass top on his desk. Hang your vision up somewhere. Get a map of your city, and put little push pins in where your students live. Remind yourself what you do this job for.

Your office is where you will do much of the behind the scenes stuff that makes your ministry great, but its not where you do ministry. Remember that. Your office should be professional, warm, inviting, and organized but you should always strive to spend as little time in your office as possible.

How is your office set up? I am always curious to see other youth ministers’ offices. I have so many stories of my own offices. My very first office I shared with the “sound room” of the church. Which meant my computer and books were located in a 5×5 section of the open air raised sound equipment area. Oh yeah, and I caught a mouse running around my computer monitor. I’ve also had an office that shared space with the craft closet, although I quickly moved all that stuff out. You’d never do that to a senior minister’s office, would you? So tell me your office stories… 

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Bill Nance

Founder and President at Student Ministry Stuff
Bill Nance is a 15 year veteran of youth ministry, having served in churches across the midwest. He currently works at a non-profit organization that works with churches and other agencies that serve hungry people. He also spends time writing, training, and speaking to help youth ministries across the country. If you are looking for a talented speaker for your next youth ministry event, consider booking him today!

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2 Comments

  1. Great points! A few weeks ago I re-organized my office, and it's been a huge help in terms of my focus. And it must have been time: more than one person joked that I must be getting ready to leave my job since I was cleaning my office!

  2. Pingback: 3 Things Things That Need to Be on This Week’s Checklist | Organic Student Ministry