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An Heroic Ministry
Verse of the day
YWI - working with...
YWI is pleased to work in association with
Fuller Youth Institute, US
Sophia Network, UK
Set up for success?
Some churches reach out to the neediest young people in the community only to hear members ask, ‘Do we really want these kinds of young people coming to our church?’ Others find issues of property damage or noise levels to be the common complaint. A lack of support from church members often frustrates leaders.
But when the support is there, everything changes! Setting up the church for youth work is a necessary task that will empower the ministry to thrive.
In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), Jesus compares the seeds that fell on good soil with those that fell on rocky soil. If we’ve learned anything from this, it is that an unprepared church will not see a great harvest from its ministry. The question is this: how do we prepare the church for effective youth ministry? Ultimately the leadership of the church needs to engage with this task but we as youth workers can facilitate the process and ensure that everything possible is being done to bring about a fully effective youth ministry. The ideas that follow can open the doors for us to prepare the church.
Key ingredients to the setup...
1. Profile: The average congregation is not thinking about youth. Our first task is to draw attention to the young people in the congregation (if any) and those that reside locally. Raise the issue of youth ministry in your parish and in time it will be on the hearts of most of your congregation. The things that we talk about become our priorities. Remember young people in prayers during services. Talk about school activities. Use church newsletters for information sharing. Invite a youth worker to come share about their work in a service. Help the congregation see just how many teens attend schools locally and how few are being reached with the gospel. What we are seeking to do is make people aware of both the need and the potential.
2. Vision: A vision is more than just a good idea. It captivates the attention of a congregation in a way that stirs people to action. A vision for youth ministry is more than just stating that we want more youth in church. More compelling is the idea that we want to impact a generation of young people for Christ! It needs to be seen as vital and urgent.
The vision for youth ministry in the church must be driven by a mission mindset rather than a desire for maintenance. We know that the majority of the population of youth left the church in recent decades and most teens today have never been to church. If we approach the task like we would the mission field, we will seek to understand youth culture, find appropriate ways to proclaim the gospel and nurture new faith.
3. Strategy: Developing strategy takes prayer and time. A church must think through the steps to take in order to develop the work that is needed. The steps must be realistic and measurable. A realistic timetable will consider the challenge and count the cost.
The strategy must be relational and not simply program-oriented. Teens respond to relationships far more than programs. The strategy must also include the congregation. Youth workers need to hold meetings with parents and potential leaders in the ministry, offering an explanation of the vision and determine how people will be involved. The strategy must be communicated to the whole congregation. Use notices and newsletters to share with everyone all that is coming up.
4. Support: Youth workers need the key leaders in the church to be behind them. Sadly, many youth workers feel like second tier staff and would leave youth ministry if it were not for the call they received from God. Even the little decisions a minister makes can have a positive or negative impact on youth leaders. When youth ministry is a priority, the best resources available should be dedicated to the work. Young people should not be relegated to the worst rooms available in the church hall. We speak volumes to young people when we treat them with dignity in the church.
Some of the youth ministers I work with pray, read scripture, serve communion, and occasionally preach in their churches. Such opportunities allow the congregation to get to know the youth worker. Those who work with young people need to be seen as vital members of the church’s leadership. Young people themselves must be seen to be part of the life of the congregation. Youth Sunday and one off youth services need to be a thing of the past. Rather, we should involve young people in all aspects of church life.
The right environment…
If we create the right environment in a congregation, youth ministry will grow. The only question is who will create that environment? If the church is led strongly by clergy, then initiating this process must begin at that level. Senior leadership must communicate vision, even if a team developed the vision. They must lend their support through the good and the challenging times and not back down on the vision! As a youth worker reading this, be encouraged that you could be the person who initiates this process! It is the task of a youth worker to educate the congregation as to what you do and why you engage in it. It may just be that you are the one to begin a revolution from within.
Dave Wright is Coordinator for Youth Ministry in the Diocese of South Carolina. For 15 years, he served in churches in the US and UK and now assists churches and youth ministers in developing their ministries.