Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Youth Ministry: The Essentials

Beth Quick asks:

I’m teaching a workshop about youth ministry for the district this weekend. My personal experience with youth ministry is mostly at the conference and jurisdictional level (I'm the conference youth coordinator for NCNY) – I have, actually, comparatively less experience with the youth ministry of the local church.

If you could make sure people knew one thing about youth ministry, what would it be? What are the most important things to know about youth ministry?


doodlebugmom said...

I am not a youth leader, I am the mom of past and present youth group members(my kids are 20,18,and 13). I could write a book about UMYF,lol.

I think the best leaders are the ones that are are flexible; the ones that will drop the "cirriculum" in an instant when something comes up.

Fun is really important to tweens and teens. Not that it always has to be fun,but that's what keeps a lot of them coming back (and bringing friends).

And having up to date medical forms and insurance information are REALLY important!

Jeff the Baptist said...

Advice? The best Youth Ministers I've ever had weren't afraid to be big kids themselves. I really think that helped them connect with us.

They also actively discipled their students and expected the students to disciple each other. My senior year, the student leadership team planned most of the major youth events not the adults. The adults just supplied teachers and chaperones.

What else? Umm. If you wind up in a church that doesn't care about its kids then get out. You're leading people through adolescence, one of the most difficult times of their lives. You should expect help from at least some of the general congregation. If they have a "we pay you to take care of these things, don't bother us" attitude, then confront them on it or leave.

Steve Heyduck said...

Build relationships with the youth. Be real - get in touch with who you really are and build relationships between the authentic you and the youth in your group.

Deb said...

I echo what the others have said: flexibility, authenticity, and true investment. Just like with leading the church, it's most important that you love the people/youth. I also think youth need structure, discipline, and consistency. As a youth director/pastor I've worked at putting a team of adults together who lead Bible studies, plan programs, and help with whatever else and that has been great--for me, for them, and for our youth. it took about a year to have a team of 5 and to work toward discipling them in spiritual practices and leadership, but it was worth it.

a book that was SUPER helpful was "Creating Authentic Youth Ministry". It is a quick read and is good about (re)focusing the ministry on what it should be--an investment in the spiritual development of the youth rather than a personality cult all about the cool youth leader and something they said, which was really powerful to me, was that the health of the youth group is a reflection of the general health of the congregation...

I think it's important to know that youth groups are fluid, they ebb and flow, grow and shrink, kids come and go and that's all a part of the ministry, just be consistent so they know it's there when they are ready to come back.

My youth love mission and it's a great way for them to get to know each other in a different way and to form deeper bonds. I recommend including regular mission work (whether it's quarterly or monthly) into your calendar--it can be raking or cleaning, playing with kids at a homeless shelter, or painting the church...there's always a need to be filled.