Saturday, January 29, 2011

7 Things I Think I Know About Youth Ministry

Yesterday I warned you I was going to preach a bit today about a few things I learned over my 28 years in youth ministry.  I actually learned more than 7 (surprise!) but this list will do for now.  Here we go!
  1. Be purpose driven and strategic.  I wish I had understood what that meant when I started, as it would have made my life much simpler.  I am not talking about buying in to the whole Saddleback model; I don't believe any one church or one model has it all figured out.  I am talking about knowing what you are trying to accomplish with your ministry and making sure that EVERYTHING you do helps you reach those goals.  I learned this process from Doug Fields, and it transformed my ministry.  Our vision statement from FUMC-Kissimmee is pictured.  Every time our Youth Ministry Team planned an event, we wanted to know what purpose it was going to help us meet. Know what you want your ministry to look like, and plan to get there. If you are a youth pastor, and you have not read Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, go buy it today.  Then tweet that I told you to buy it and maybe I can get a cut of Doug's profits...
  2. Youth Ministry is all about relationships.  Our job is to connect students with Jesus, with each other, and with adults who love them.  The last 2 are often the best way to the first.  If your ministry is bringing in students from outside the church walls (and if you are not, turn in your membership card right now!) then you have to work at intentionally building relationships and community.  An old quote I love reminds us that it is much easier to draw a crowd than to build a family.  It takes work, and it is crucial.  So many times teenagers find Jesus in the midst of such fellowship.  And so many youth have so few positive adult role models in their lives.  Find ways to spend time one-on-one with your students.  Obey all the safety precautions- but find a way.
  3. Myrtle Beach Trip, 1988
  4.  In your desire to turn your students into spiritual giants, please don't neglect fun.  Teenagers need to learn how to play.  They need to learn how to be social in ways that don't involve a computer.  And for the sake of Pete (Short Circuit reference!) take trips!  Nothing helps you accomplish community building better or faster, and the memories you make last a lifetime. Look back through this blog and read the comments about our trips from 30, 20 and 10 years ago- those memories are precious to the youth who participated.  Take mission trips, take vacation trips, take mystery trips- but please, take trips! 
  5. Be Wholistic ( I know it's not a real word!) in your ministry. Teenagers are not just developing spiritually, but mentally, physically, socially and emotionally as well. A great youth ministry will aid in all of those areas. Never assume your youth are being helped with problems, issues and growth anywhere else. You know that Jesus is the answer for all those things- but they probably don't.
  6. At some point everyone "borrows" ideas from other leaders and other ministries. That's cool- right now someone is probably "borrowing" one of your ideas! Just make sure you only "borrow" from the best. All ideas, programs and events are not created equal- some of them stink! And others were never meant to work in your situation. Be picky.
  7. Remember who the ministry is for- students!  Plan your meetings and events not only when it works for them, but also for their friends.  If all of your kids play football, are in the marching band or are cheerleaders, then planning Friday night events during football season is just stupid.  I had major programs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays over the years depending on the schedules of my students- and ALWAYS on Sundays.  It is very chic these days to not meet on Sunday evenings.  If Sunday nights are still the night that most of your students and their friends have available, then meet on Sunday nights!  I don't care how inconvenient it is for you or your church.  Parents who are really worried about "family time" can make time for that some other day.   And for the love of Sheldon Cooper, make full use of summers!  Your students are available and bored.  We once had 75 days between the last day of school and the beginning of the next year.  We had youth events on 72 of them. You need to be there for them- not the other way around.
  8. Pie, Carl.  Carl, Pie.
  9. All Christian ministry should be all about Jesus.  But more than any other ministry of the church, youth ministry should reflect the radical nature of the Savior.  Jesus made the church leaders of His day extremely uncomfortable.  A good student ministry will do the same thing.  If your youth room is not occasionally filled with tattooed, pierced, wildly dressed renegades who are still searching for Jesus, then you may be doing something wrong.  If some of your events, ministries and music don't rub part of your congregation the wrong way, you may need to take a second look at how you are doing youth work.  If you don't periodically ruin the Jones Memorial Carpet (I miss you Yac!) because a Jello Night or a pie throwing skit got a bit out of control- well then I just can't help you!  Youth ministry should be outrageous- in the way we love, in faith, in fun and in outreach.  Remember, Jesus' "church council" didn't like Him either...
So there they are for today- I am sure I will rant more down the road.  I look forward to your feedback.  God bless and have a great Sabbath!

Because of Jesus,

1 comment:

  1. Wow... what an awesome blog. I will definitely be keeping up with your future blogs. Thank you.


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