15. What if-youth leadership ministry helps grow family ministry, and family ministry helps grow youth leadership ministry? Youth learn the most about faith from the people closest to them. Whatever is modeled and mentored by the family is what will stick. Family faith development takes intentional work, including side-by-side learning and leadership opportunities. Help families declare, “We do candle times at night.”
As an organization, Peer Ministry Leadership works with youth ministries of all denominations. We believe that youth, as peers, directly influence the faith and lives of other teens. We also believe they can shape the faith and lives of their own families. This belief in the training of relational skills has extended our ministry into direct family ministry.
Peer Ministry Leadership and Families
Skills: “Skills result in change.” I remember Dr. Varenhorst, one of my mentors, driving that statement into my own DNA. Speeches, lessons, even sermons, seldom result in faith and life change. Most people respond to such methods much like responding to a Facebook post. We hear a speaker and say, “I liked that,” similar to clicking a Facebook Like button, then quickly moving on and forgetting. If you want change, be direct. Practice repeatable skills.
I was 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, leading in our ministries, but I also started hearing parents say things like, “What are you doing to my kid? We are having different kinds of conversations at home.” Youth shape their families. I had always assumed it was only the parents who shaped their youth.
After working on the skill of using questions to allow others to tell their story, a young girl said she practiced this skill with her dad. She did not live with him, so laid out some examples of story questions, called him on the phone, and proceeded to have a conversation with her dad. She told the group, “We talked for three hours last night,” she said. “I never talk to my dad that long! He even called me this morning to say ‘thank you’!” In reality, she was learning to be interested in her dad, a role reversal from many parent-youth relationships.
In PML, we creatively learn a skill, practice a skill, but then say, “Go, use this skill.” The beauty is that the line between practice and real-life is very thin. Practice becomes, and already is, real life. I have come to believe that helping families enter into personal faith practice can effectively come from the leadership of youth!
Youth Teaching Faith Practices
Teaching usable repeatable skills to youth is not limited to Peer Ministry Leadership. One of my favorite experiences was with a group of confirmation youth who did a series using Candle Time prayers. When we finished, the youth wanted to teach these to others. They decided to set up a table in their coffee area after their church service, invited one or two families at a time to come to the table, led them in a creative prayer experience, and then gave them a handout they could use to repeat the experience in their home. Youth were teaching families how to pray!
These same youth went on to lead the Candle Time sessions the following year with the new confirmation students. Assume youth can and will pass on faith to others. They need solid experiences that they can repeat.
Youth and Families Together
Living Room Summit: This is a conference, literally held in living rooms, with the belief that we should teach family ministry in the place that we want ministry to end up, in the family living room! See coupon below for more details.
One of the elements of the LRS is taught by Andrea Griner. Her theme is this, “Don’t expect families to do anything that they have not first practiced hands-on.” Her method is to gather families, each family with their own space, and facilitate experiences that they can repeat at home. Facilitate is a key word. Andrea facilitates families hands-on, face-to-face. She always allows the families to do the work, rather than her teaching or lecturing. She applies this methodology in programs called Faith Families and Milestones, as well as in confirmation.
Bringing families together, side-by-side, facilitated directly, equally learning from each other, parents leading youth, and youth leading parents, is the most effective approach I have seen. I am a bit biased, but as someone who worked for The Youth & Family Institute for over 12 years, I saw a lot. Let me repeat, this is the most effective program that I have seen.
1 Begin by assuming that youth can influence the faith of their families.
2 When training Peer Ministry Leadership, challenge youth to practice skills in homes.
3 Give youth specific faith practices and allow them to teach these to others.
4 Use every opportunity to gather families to learn side-by-side and face-to-face with each other.
5 Facilitate faith experiences in your congregation, so that they can be repeated at home.
6 Come to the LIVING ROOM SUMMIT, to develop specific ways to lead family ministry.
7 Collect faith resources you can use to facilitate repeatable experiences, such as CANDLE TIME TOOL KIT, HEART IGNITE, and SCRIPTURE TALK.