First, I confess. The first versions of this article could only be described as snarky. There are those moments I want to yell out, “Stop doing it that way” or “Stop making excuses” or “Why don’t you just…” My advisory people helped me get over it. I have recovered from the snarkies.
The truth is, I love youth ministry. It chose me early in life and I have been unable to escape it. For me, there is nothing more exciting or energizing than watching the sparks of light turn on in kids. For some reason, I have always been good at creating growing groups, filled kids who have caring and welcoming hearts. I have always looked at kids and assumed they were my partners in ministry, my team, my staff. I learned early on that kids, when viewed this way, exceeded every expectation for leadership I had.
I have some beliefs that have followed me through the years. These beliefs still guide me in my coaching and teaching, helping groups re-vision, helping young youth ministers jump ahead, or helping organize a leadership team, who do not have funding to hire staff to lead their ministry.
Below (you will want to click over to my blog to read it all) is some of what drives me. (Most snarkiness has been removed.)
My hope for this writing? That you will respond to it!
What catches your attention?
Want to talk, argue, add your own, “I believes…
- join in at the bottom of this blog
- or join in a discussion via webinar on THU JAN 20th, 10 AM central standard time (EMAIL me for directions
- or just get on the phone and call me at 612-418-5572
I believe that Youth Ministry happens EVERY DAY, EVERYWHERE and in EVERY RELATIONSHIP.
Bringing people to a church building is not the objective. Still, much of what we do in congregations feels like it is. Living faith every day, everywhere and in every relationship are the ministry outcomes I hope for. It is faith and life, shared with peers, with families, at school, at work, in neighborhoods, across the world and with the body of Christ. It is front lines Good Samaritan leadership that I foster.
I believe in YOUTH MINISTRY.
I believe family ministry is crucial, but it is not an excuse to quit doing quality youth ministry. Kids still need the models of peers. Kids greatly influence the faith of other kids. Kids try out ideas, thoughts, beliefs and behaviors in relationship with their peers. Congregations are those grace-filled places that connect kids in welcoming, meaningful, and significant ways.
I believe effective Youth Ministry is built around a YOUTH TEAM.
Youth ministry is not led by one person. It is led by a team of well-trained, relational adults and youth. If youth are led by only one person, your numbers will most likely hover in the neighborhood of 6 to 10 kids. That is one person’s relational capacity. Where there is a well-equipped youth team, the potential expands. I don’t like using the words “volunteer” or “chaperone.” Ministry is bigger than such labels! Think of them like a camp staff – people relationally trained to work with a few kids, giving life and energy to the larger group.
I believe in youth ministry that is growing in NUMBERS.
I know, we all say, “It is not about the numbers. It is about the depth.” Ministry
grows in numbers when there is depth. Ministry that is not growing in numbers may have become a closed club or not found purpose and meaning. Ministry is not about a list of kids. We live in communities. Every time youth gather, a litany needs to be spoken saying, “Our youth ministry is open to every kid in our community and we are glad you are here!” If you only have six kids in your congregation it may be time for a broader vision.
I believe kids make time for what is MOST IMPORTANT.
“Kids are too busy, with too many pressures.” Yes, they are, but that is exactly why they need people and places for sanity and grounding. They desperately need grace space! When the mission is real, meaningful, and purposeful, kids will make time.
I believe kids will show up for WORSHIP.
Especially when they are involved and their voices are present. It is less about contemporary verses traditional and more about kids leading and seeing other kids leading. Are kids’ issues heard in the prayer petitions or in the sermon illustrations? Kids go where they are needed! Kids go where they are known and blessed. If we want kids in worship, include them in multiple ways.
I believe good youth ministry is built around DEPTH.
Stop thinking, “Oh, if we had more fun things for our kids to do, they would show up.” The foundation of youth ministry is not the word, “Fun.” Bigger and better hayrides are not the answer. Kids are hungry for chances for honest faith talk and life discussions. They gravitate towards spiritual practices. They want a faith that is actively making a difference in the world, helping them help others. Kids will of course create fun. It is who they are. Adults don’t always need to create it. As adults we need to allow it.
I believe youth ministry is about CREATING ATMOSPHERE.
I believe it is less about “Youth Group” and more about “Youth Ministry.” Maybe it is just a Lyleism, but for me “Youth Group” faces inward, becoming a club. “Youth Ministry” faces outward caring and welcoming every neighbor. This caring and welcoming relational atmosphere takes time and intentional direction.
I believe youth ministry is about BUILDING LEADERSHIP and DISCIPLESHIP.
Leadership is less about kids planning meetings or speaking in microphones more about Good Samaritan Leadership. I love seeing kids lead relationally, welcoming and caring for other. Microphones and committees really fit very few kids. But, every kid has relationships in which God is in the midst.
I believe kids learn from RELATIONAL MENTORS.
Curriculums are what they are, but they are beginning guides. (Buy mine!) But, kids know when they are only being taught out of a manual. Kids believe and act when they are led by relationally mentoring people, who live the curriculum.
I believe confirmation (for those who do this) needs really good HIGH SCHOOL LEADERSHIP.
Everyone keeps reinventing confirmation. That is okay, but, the assumption is that since kids quit coming after confirmation, the curriculum must be bad. I have observed that even congregations with great confirmation programs still have their kids leave … unless, unless there are magnetic high school youth, who are relationally connected with them. You need that relational Youth Team of older kids who care and are involved and model Good Samaritan leadership.
I believe that creating a WEB OF SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIPS is the primary job for youth ministry.
Counting numbers is less about how many kids showed up at a particular event and more about how many faithful relationships surround each kid. (Thank you, Tom Schwolert.) Think of yourself as a relational director, empowering spiritual relationships with other kids, families, congregation members and others. You create the youth staff or team, the peer ministry leaders, the mentors, the opportunities for caring conversations between kids and the elderly, and yes, with their own families. These are the numbers that make a bigger difference in kids’ faith.
I believe PEER MINISTRY LEADERSHIP is essential.
Peer Ministry Leadership is less about a training or curriculum, although that is how I begin with congregations. Peer Ministry Leadership is about creating a culture of Good Samaritan Leaders. This is learned by people who live it, teach it, and help guide it in others’ lives. It really is the grass roots relational ministry of being called to do likewise, which is needed by all Christians at every age.
I believe in FAMILY MINISTRY.
Families will not do faith practices in their homes until they have had opportunities to practice them, hands on, in your congregation. (Thank you, David Lynn) All parents really want to know is how pray with their kids. They want the simplest of ideas. (Thank you, Andrea Fieldhouse.) Children become who their families are, thus the importance of helping shape spiritual families. (And if you have not been to a Living Room Summit… Get there! We are putting wheels on all the studies and practices.)
I believe solid Youth Ministry TAKES YEARS TO BUILD.
It takes time to build a culture. Unfortunately, it can all be destroyed in a short period of time. Congregations, not just a staff person, need to own the vision and direction. If you get a new plan every time a new person is hired or appointed, you will be starting over again, and again, and again. New staff need to follow a congregation’s vision.
I believe there is MONEY for youth ministry.
If youth ministry is one of your congregation’s top priorities, then it has to be funded. If it is not funded from a budget, then there are other ways. “Creative worthwhile ministry comes from outside budgets.” (Thank you, Dr. Dick Hardel) Share the vision, pray, ask, believe… If it is worth doing, it is worth communicating and asking for financial partners.