Nikki Rud, Zion Lutheran, Grand Rapids, MN
Along the same lines as bringing Peer Ministers on trips, we also have started including Peer Ministers as helpers in all of our elementary and junior high aged programs. It began out of necessity, as growing numbers of youth left me needing more assistance. It didn’t take long, however, for me to have a “duh” moment…why hadn’t I been doing this all along?!? The Peer Ministers were not only helping me out but they were role models for the youth and able to build solid foundational relationships. Especially in regards to our Rascals – K-5th grade – program, having these “big kids” present has allowed them to play, pray, sing and learn together forming lasting bonds.
I have heard many stories over the years from Peer Ministers going off to college or jobs and how their skills in PML helped them to not only get through difficult times but also to help others through their new life transitions and tribulations. They are no longer just Peer Ministers – they are the church being raised to love like Jesus and will continue to be in service to God through their deliberate actions.
Why Youth Ministry? Letters to Parents
Greetings, Parents of High School Youth!
Lyle, here. I am an adult volunteer with high school youth ministry.
Last night we had a fascinating conversation in our youth-led “candle time” groups where we sit close, around a candle, almost like our own little campfire. It is here we talk and listen to each other’s life and faith stories.
My summary of a recent conversation!
“Navigating high school? So many kids at our school are like magnets, drawn to drama, quickly joining in, echoing judgments, passing on gossip and forming negative opinions. As high school students, we constantly walk this line of making choices that won’t make us stand out, because if you do stand out, you’ll quickly attract critics.”
I experience youth ministry as an oasis, a place where youth can come out of the traffic and be in a culture where all are welcome, there is no judgment, and there is always grace. Living life fully needs a sense of spiritually that can only happen when people pause, turn off the noise, move away from the screens, and have time to be aware of God.
(your information) Wednesday night is where you want your sons and daughters to be. I hear multiple youth say, “This is what gets me through the week.” Encourage, encourage, encourage your youth to come.
youth ministry adult volunteer
Greetings, Parents of High School Youth!
I asked our youth the other day to raise their hands if they knew someone…
- whose family is going through changes because of divorce or separation
- who struggles because of over use or abuse of alcohol or drugs
- who is grieving because of the recent death of someone
- who lives with more depression than others
- who has considered suicide
- struggling in a bad relationship
- who is treated poorly by others or is bullied
- who is self-harming or cutting
- who has an eating disorder
You know what/ I was humbled to see most hands go up for most issues.
Then, I asked how many wished they knew better how to help
Every hand went up!
On Wednesday (your information) nights at our youth ministry, we talk about the real concerns youth have, how to help, and how to know God’s love, grace, peace and hope in every part of life.
I hope you encourage your son or daughter to clear the schedule for WED nights.
Greetings, Parents of High School Youth!
I find youth to be wonderfully quirky, sometimes silly, rambunctious, and even hard to keep focused.
I am always honored when youth trust enough to share the stuff that lies below the surface, the underlying stories of pain, fear, stress, and life. There is so much more than we first see.
I watch as youth say things like…
“You, too? I thought I was the only one.”
or… “Wow, I guess everyone has a story!”
or… “We all are facing life, but we hardly ever talk about it.”
or… “I love it that people really listen to me here.”
Our youth ministry is a place to be quirky, silly, and rambunctious. Our youth ministry is also a place where we care enough to listen, support, and cheer each person on as they face the challenges of faith and life.
This year, youth ministry meets regularly on… (your information)
I hope you give a little nudge to encourage your son or daughter to join us.
Greetings, Parents of High School Youth!
Everyone needs others who say “Yay” for them! It used to be said that every youth needs an adult mentor. Now, some research says every youth needs at least seven adult mentors who help them navigate life.
Our youth ministry is about connecting youth with others who model and mentor faith and life. We connect youth with other youth. We connect youth with mentoring adults. We help youth connect with their own family members. We even help them connect with cross-generational experiences within our church. We want to help every parent become intentional in connecting their children with faithful, life- giving people who say “Yay” for your youth!
Our church strives to be a connecting place. We hope you encourage your youth to be part of our… (your information)
Greetings, Parents of High SchoolYouth!
My kids are already overly busy! Why do they need one more thing at church?
Psychology says our self-worth is woven from a sense of uniqueness, belonging, hope, and purpose. God wraps these into our baptismal promise. We are each uniquely gifted. We are set into a body of people called the church. Our hope is in a God and life that is never ending. Our purpose is our calling.
Here is what we offer your youth…
Belonging – We have amazing people that you want your youth to know! Peer pressure can be a great thing in the midst of safe people, in safe places, encouraged in safe conversations. Living life and faith can only be learned by rubbing shoulders with those who model and mentor it. We work constantly to create a caring, welcoming and affirming culture of relationships with trained youth and adult leaders.
Hope – Your son or daughter will find an assurance of hope that will make sense of this world! Everything, everything, everything ends except the hope, faith, love, and grace the church embodies. Discovering the disappointments, unfairness, hurts, and sorrows of this world is confusing. Our youth ministry is a spiritual place. We talk about the good and the bad of life. We enter into faith practices that help us be aware of God in our midst.
Uniqueness – Your son or daughter will discover and use their gifts, as well as the reasons God created him or her! He or she will often hear the words, “We need you!” We believe God created each of us with a unique design, a set of gifts, skills and abilities. We all need to be needed. We work hard to plug in your son or daughter’s uniqueness throughout our church.
Purpose – Your son or daughter will discover a practice and attitude of being a servant leader! We don’t just talk about ministry; we do it. Throughout the year, we participate in a number of service opportunities that are about making life better for others. We also emphasize that youth are doing ministry every day, everywhere, and in every relationship because they are with people all day long. We give our youth people skills and values that help them to love others because Christ first loved us.
Those are four big, crucial reasons.
Now here are some of our entrance doors in youth ministry!
Greetings, Parents of High School Youth!
I love what I get to do! My name is Lyle, and I facilitate a lot of groups of youth and adults in learning the caring, welcoming, and affirming skills of Peer Ministry Leadership. As we learn and practice the skills we use our real life stories, the sharing between people gets very real. I am always honored when I get to listen to these heart-felt stories.
This week I got to sit with…
A very honest young man. “I’m not good with relationships, especially with girls. Video games have always been there for me. They are my friend. I am just awkward with people.”
A young girl driven by passion. “I was horrified to discover that people, for their own political reasons, are ignoring all of what we know about our environment. I am studying environmental science. We still have a lot to learn about balancing our world with our desire for human progress. I want to make a difference for people and our world.”
A vibrant, talented young girl, who shares, “I live with a mom who is addicted to drugs. We never talk about it at home. Church is the only place I can be honest.”
Another young girl who shared, “I have three men that, through the years, I was supposed to call “Dad.” I avoid all of them. The only positive male in my life has been my older brother.”
It is the willingness to get beyond the surface that makes people more than just a person in the crowd. People become real when you share these heart-felt stories. Asking the questions that matter makes people real!
In Peer Ministry Leadership, we don’t try to fix, bandaid,counsel, or give our opinions. We just listen. We help friends tell their life and faith stories.
I hope you encourage your youth to become part of our congregation’s Peer Ministry Leadership opportunities. It is about a Good Samaritan style of leadership. It will give your young person the very skills needed to navigate every relationship, everyday, every where.
PEER MINISTRY LEADERSHIP SKILLS
What Kind? And Why?
Face-to-face, heart-to-heart, person-to-person, practicing real life people skills is the most effective way we know to move a living, caring faith from theory to reality.
“Skills result in change.” I remember Dr. Varenhorst, the pioneer of peer programs in schools and then churches, also one of my mentors, driving that statement into my DNA. Speeches, youth group lessons, even sermons, seldom result in faith and life changes. Most people respond to such methods as if they were clicking the “Like” button on a Facebook post, and quickly move on, forgetting or doing nothing to personally respond. If you want change, teach practical, repeatable skills.
What kind of skills? People skills! Relational skills understand ministry as caring for your neighbor, with the advantage of knowing how to do that. These skills go directly to very core of life! Youth’s number one concern is their relationships. Youth are hungry to figure out relational connections. Framing relational skills in the context of faith just makes sense. We love because Christ first loved us. (I Jn: 4:19) We share others burdens because it is part of God’s law. (Gal 6:2). Suddenly, relational faith skills are a real and relevant part of everyday life for youth.
I was originally drawn to Peer Ministry Leadership because I could see the results. PML gives specific skills for real life and faith that youth use daily. Not only were youth caring more for other youth and leading in our ministries, but I also started hearing parents ask, “What are you doing to my kid? We are having different kinds of conversations at home.”
In PML, we creatively learn a skill, practice a skill, but then say, “Go, use this skill.” The line between practice and real-life is very thin. Practice during the training uses participants’ real stories, nothing artificial or pretend, just honest real life experiences. After using the skills with one another, we come back together and name what we are learning. Biblical story and candle time prayer experiences help us realize how vital these skills are to living out a Christian calling.
After the training, we encourage every Peer Ministry Leadership youth to continue to learn the skills by using them every day, everywhere, and in every relationship! Adult mentors help by checking in, talking with youth about their ministry at church and in everyday life.
Here is an outline from the PML manual. It will give you an idea of the type of skills we get to work on!
1. Leadership: Good Samaritan Style
2. Ask: Questions That Care
3. The Well: Learning to Listen
4. Spirit Nudges: Nonverbal Understanding
1. Decisions: Thou Shall Not Should
2. Journey: Choices, Changes, and Challenges
3. Well Aware: Community Aware
4. Plan: Mission & Purpose
1. Inviting: I Have To Tell You
2. Welcome: Surprising Hospitality
3. Hurt?: Welcoming when Un-Welcomed
4. Open: Big Doors
(If PML is something you want to see within the next couple of years, we should start the conversation now! Send a note, ask questions, let’s put a plan together!” <EMAIL>)
PEER MINISTRY LEADERSHIP PLAN
We want every church to equip their youth with the caring, welcoming and affirming skills of Peer Ministry Leadership. What follows is an explanation of the PML plan to get your church started! Most often, two or more congregations work together, sharing costs and allowing participants to learn from people they may not know as well as those in their own congregation.
Let’s begin where you want to end up!
- create a magnetic culture of caring, welcoming and affirming throughout your programs.
- know they are leaders valued by your congregation.
- daily apply relational ministry skills in all relationships.
- learn how to train PML and will lead your next trainings.
- encourage and support student leaders throughout your congregation.
- mentor individual PML youth to review and enhance youth leadership.
- known for producing student leaders.
- growing in youth participation.
- growing in spiritual depth.
A Foundational Relational Culture
Peer Ministry Leadership is viewed as the underlying relational foundation for all your programs. Programs are merely programs unless there is an intentional group of youth and adult leaders who create a caring, welcoming and affirming culture. Peer Ministry Leadership is the best system we know for creating that culture, with leaders who love because Christ first loved them. (I Jn. 4:19).
Youth Who Continue to Value Church
We also believe that youth who learn PML skills and are given significant opportunities to use these skills continue in the church! PML youth hear the all important words, “We need you!” from their congregation. “Youth are either leading or leaving.” When church values youth for meaningful ministry, youth, in turn, value the church!
PML Training Logistics
We use a combination of on-site training, coaching connections, along with written resources.
Begin with PML Kickstart Coaching
A couple of months before the training, we begin with a pre-session via the magic of Skype or conference calling that we call our PML Kickstart coaching. We refer to this group as your street team, which consists of few of your adult leaders and key youth. This team is made up of your people who want to be in-the-know and will enthusiastically help others to also be in be in-the-know. This meeting allows us to describe the training days, directly answer questions, and motivate excitement. We will ask your team to begin thinking about practical applications for after the training, plus plan ways to communicate to youth, parents and your congregation. A big advantage is that the staff person is no longer the lone middle person. Our observation: it has greatly enhanced churches’ participation in the training!
The training, held at your site, is always a great highlight. Often it takes place over part of a weekend, about 11 to 12 hours with a cross-generational group of youth and adults. Our PML training facilitator comes with no laser lights, no smoke machines, not even a power-point. The training time begins with a circle of chairs and is about the people who come together, learning heart-to-heart, person-to-person, and face-to-face. Together, people experience creative, fun-illed activities, learn the skills, share in real life stories as they practice the skills, and participate in various spiritual practices. Is it fun? Of course! The youth and youthfulness of the participants always make it so.
Of course you want to know!
$2,200 covers training weekend plus for coaching sessions, one before and three after the training.
Additional costs will be trainer expenses and your resources.
The Good News! We hope you share these costs with one to three other congregations!
Who Should Come?
Adults who will learn how to provide training for your next group of youth, and some who will be willing to meet with your new PML youth as leadership mentors, possibly four times a year.
Youth who want to know how to better care for others, as well as participate in various relational leadership capacities.
After the Training
People never go to a training or workshop and internalize everything. That is why the skills that are learned and used in PML training need to be encouraged and used in the congregation, as well as “out-there” in every day settings. Helping participants find practical situations to use their new skills, with regular check-in times, assures that your training experience is not forgotten. We hope you do this in several ways!
We hope that soon after the training you can facilitate one-on-one relational times between your PML youth and others in your congregation.
- a youth who is new to your congregation.
- a youth whose parent says, “I would love for a PML youth to meet one-on-one.”
- a youth who is worried about a friend and can gain direction and support from a PML friend.
- confirmation students, meeting to share faith and life stories.
- an interview project, asking youth to record the faith stories of older members.
We also hope your PML participants become part of a relational leadership team. This team may be similar to a camp staff that helps lead various elements like games, introductions to the evening’s topic, retreats for younger teens, candle time prayers, and small groups. The advantage is that, no matter what they are leading, they will understand that above all else, the relational time and connections are their top priority.
If there are “in-house ministries,” it only follows that there must also be “out-house ministries!” Ministry happens beyond the walls of a church every day, everywhere, and in every relationship. Here is the question to keep asking your youth that will change your focus from an inward group to an outward ministry. “What are the concerns you hear, see or sense out there among the people you interact with?” We call these spirit nudges, as there seems to be those times when something catches our attention, “I feel concern.” “Maybe I should talk to that person.” The amazing discovery is that such nudges often lead to important caring, welcoming, or affirming conversations.
ADULT LEADERSHIP MENTORING
“The only time a person learns anything is when they reflect back on it.” This is an essential educational principle! Adults plan several mentoring times throughout the next year. Adults meet with student leaders to reflect on how their skills are being used, both at church and in everyday life. During this time, participants revisit and practice at least one of the key relational skills.
DEVELOPING STUDENT LEADER – COACHING
Training is great, but without a solid implementation plan, it can quickly become just another manual on the shelf. We don’t want that! “Training without follow-up is malpractice” is another wonderful educational principle. We work with at least one key leader from each church to strategize and customize leadership development plans after the training. We start with a collection of 24 strategies that are creative approaches congregations can use to produce leadership. We will work with you to select and implement the ones most important to you.
Coaching will help you build a program structure so that your Peer Ministry Leadership youth will lead, grow your foundational culture, and experience being needed. We will help you set up systems for encouraging and supporting youth to use their skillsevery day, everywhere and in every relationship.
You will be known as a congregation that produces leadership!
(If PML is something you want to see with in the next couple of years we should start the conversation now! Send a note, ask questions, let’s put a plan together!” <EMAIL>)