YOUTH MINISTRY is LEADERSHIP Ministry
# 6. What if—participation in soccer, choir, robotics, band, work, and football are valued as places of ministry?
“Sometimes I am too busy to show up at church. I used to feel guilty. Now my church tells me they need me on the team.” When churches teach skills for caring, welcoming and affirming, they also learn to encourage and support youth with these skills “out there!” “Out there” is where youth actually have interactions with people and do their ministry.
Intentionally helping youth live life as ministry!
Okay, pause! Yes, I know what it sounds like. I apologize. Much of my education came from junior high kids! But, I couldn’t resist. If churches are building youth leaders, they are most likely using them for IN-HOUSE church programs, the ones that happen under the roof of their congregation’s building. The opposite must be… OUT-HOUSE ministry, which really means that youth are living their caring, welcoming, and affirming leadership every day, everywhere, and in every relationship.
Our normal church expectation for youth is that we need them to sign-up, show-up, go with, go to, experience, discuss, volunteer, worship, perform, fulfill, accomplish, and, of course, love a good old fashion night of laser-tag! (And I am all for all that!) BUT IF, this is the experience of “church,” then we have placed faith in a narrow silo. UNLESS we are intentionally facilitating faith experiences in everyday life, we are not helping our youth to BE the church.
I prefer defining living daily faith as a Christian witness that is about welcoming, loving, listening, feeding sheep, being living water, giving to others, being the last so others can be first… It is about loving one’s neighbor.
I begin by telling youth, “You are all ready doing ministry! We may have forgotten to tell you!” I want to believe that everyone cares for someone. Human nature at its best desires something better for others. And virtually everyone is willing to listen to the great joys and the great sorrows of another.
So, how can we transform youth ministry into intentional OUT-HOUSE ministry? Here are some ideas:
1. Begin by teaching that ministry is more about listening, caring, welcoming and affirming, than about arguing, convincing, changing, or persuading.
2. Let’s assume youth are already doing ministry. Let’s explain how their caring relationships is ministry. Than let’s equip them with further. <CLICK> (Blog, Assuming youth are ministers.)
3. Keep asking youth about weekly “Spirit nudges,” those things they saw, heard, or sensed that concerned them. This moves discussions to an outward ministry focus. <CLICK> (Blog, learn more about Spirit Nudges.)
4. Invite youth to pray for others (Rule of thumb: no names, no prayer gossip.) Pray for concerns, those “Spirit Nudges” that need to be lifted up in prayer.
5. Keep track! Ask your youth to name the issues of concern they talked to others about this week. List the topics. Ask how many times they heard their peers express these concerns. <CLICK> (PDF example.)
6. Listen to concerns youth are talking about. When topics like suicide, depression, eating disorders, or bullying, come up, facilitate a discussion, bring in a speaker, work on what you can say or do to help friends in these specific situations.
7. Give every “student leader” an adult mentor to meet with at least four times a year. The mentor is to ask the questions about leadership, both “In-house” ministry questions and “Out-house,” every day ministry questions. <CLICK>. (One page guide)
8. Ask student leaders to speak about how PML skills have helped him/her help someone else. ( The church word for this is “testimony.”) Write up these stories, posting them as examples of everyday ministry.
9. Celebrate and appreciate student leaders’ everyday ministry. Host a dinner, give a certificate, take one person at a time out for coffee. affirm, uplift and highlight everyday ministry in all the ways you can.
10. STOP seeing sports, music and extra-curricular activities as the enemy! It is in these activities that your youth can connect with others. Teach them how! <CLICK> (Blog, Church verses Extra Curricular) and <CLICK> (Blog, The Youth Ministry Rant)
Peer Ministry Leadership is one of the few approaches that gives youth concrete, ways for living life as everyday ministry. I describe it as the mission trip you don’t have to sign up for! <CLICK> (Article you can use with your youth.) It is the ministry where we can tell youth, “You need to leave the church!” <CLICK> (Another article you may want to send to your youth!)
I can go on and on about the reasons every church needs Peer Ministry Leadership as a foundation. PML training is important, but don’t confuse that as accomplishing Peer Ministry.
The short summary is this: We are misleading youth as to what ministry is if we are not naming and helping them live ministry every day, everywhere and in every relationship.
(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>)