Easter People listen! I tell you a mystery:
Rod Hocott, the Conference Youth Coordinator for Arkansas Conference, sent out this wonderful message this morning to his youth workers. I thought that, at the end of summer, it was a good way to begin evaluating our youth ministries as folks begin planning the year. These are the simple basics to any strong youth ministry. You know, the ones we already know but are so easily forgotten when we are tired or under stress. It’s good to remember the foundation before another year is planned. Without anything further, here is Rod:
I began looking back over my years in youth ministry in order to glean the things that I thought had worked in helping youth become strong in their faith. I was able to come up with six simple things that at each church I served all worked together to increase youth attendance so discipleship could take place. They are simply the basics of youth ministry, whether you have done youth ministry for 30 years or three months, or whether your youth group has one or one hundred.
BASIC NO. 1: The Senior Pastor is the main youth minister of any local church. A study done by Search Institute on Exemplary Youth Ministries discovered this to be a main thread that ran through all the youth groups they spotlighted. This does not mean the Senior Pastor DOES the youth ministry, but that they are the support, the cheerleader, and the liaison between the youth and the congregation.
BASIC NO. 2: Parent support/involvement. Parents may not want a steady job of being in attendance every Sunday night, but they do care and want to be involved in some way in the lives of their children. (After all, they rarely ever miss a ball game, a concert, a play, or a competition that their kids are in.) This can be done in a number of ways including snack supper servers, van drivers, short-term Bible study leaders, fund-raising coordinators, retreat chaperones, etc. Don’t ever negate the power of parent’s involvement when it comes to their promoting youth ministry and seeing to it that their kids are in attendance on a regular basis. Kids may say they don’t want their parents there and parents may say they don’t want to be there, but the group won’t grow without this very important element.
BASIC NO. 3: Have a working Youth Leadership Team. The Youth Leadership Team/Youth Council or whatever you choose to call it, is made up of youth and the adults who work with them, to plan, implement, and carry out the programming for the youth group. It gives the youth responsibility, allows them an avenue for their leadership skills to grow, and promotes youth group ownership. Youth Councils can be volunteer, elected or appointed (each of these methods has pros and cons). Regardless of how a Youth Council is established, the members must take their duties seriously and understand that their job is to set the stage for ministry to take place in their youth group. This can happen through games, songs, retreats, Bible lessons, or programs on social issues, and how all these areas pertain to their lives today. Once youth realize the program belongs to them, they become the promoters and invite not only the inactives, but their friends as well.
BASIC NO. 4: Committed adult volunteers. Putting together a team of adults who want to create relationships with youth to see them on their faith walk is probably the hardest job I had as a youth minister. But, if you recruit correctly, you can find those adults who love the Lord, love the youth, and are all about the spiritual growth of each member of the group. (Note: age, athletic ability, size and looks are not the hallmark of good volunteers. The question you need to ask is: are they relational?) FB, Tweeting, Texting, E-mail, youth newsletter, phone tree, announcements, individual contacts by phone and the list goes on and on. Since we all receive and assimilate information in different ways, all of the above forms of communication, plus many others, need to be used in order to reach the majority of the youth in the church. Always keep them informed about what is going on, what is coming up and how they can be participants in this thing we call “spiritual growth. (Monthly contact with parents will also help parents become allies in youth ministrsy)
BASIC NO. 5: Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! How, you ask? We live in a fast paced society with many ways to communicate available to us. E-mail, youth newsletter, phone tree, announcements, individual contacts by phone (every youth now has a cell phone) and the list goes on and on. Since we all receive and assimilate information in different ways, all of the above forms of communication, plus many others, need to be used in order to reach the majority of the youth in the church. Always keep them informed about what is going on, what is coming up and how they can be participants in this thing we call “spiritual growth.”
BASIC NO. 6: Take your day off and spend time with your family. The church is a great place to work, but as long as you keep giving, the church will keep taking until you are completely burned out. It is imperative . . . IMPERATIVE, that you take time for you or else you will not be at your best for your youth.
NOTE: Please note that none of these basics has anything to do with spiritual growth. These basics are meant to get kids in the door so that YOU can get on with the discipling process.
So, as you launch into a new year, put these basics to work and you may find your job will get not easier, but more organized. And with organization comes peace of mind and peace of mind makes you much more approachable by your youth.