Saturday, December 30, 2006

Is There a Place for Students in Your Church?

Mark Yaconelli in his book Youth Ministry: A Contemplative Approach said, "If we are to keep young people involved in the church and if we are to renew our congregations, we first must acknowledge that many of our current forms of youth ministry are destructive"

There are many difficulties when it comes to church ministry, and this is one of them. Different churches respond in different ways to teenagers. Some look down on them. They think they are incapable of being responsible or doing a good job. Others value them highly but are not interested in putting in the effort to help them become contributing members of God's family. Still there is another group of churches that value them and are willing to help them become Godly men and women who contribute to the kingdom of God.

It is easy to see which of the previous three types of churches is the best, the question is which one is your church? I would suggest really reflecting on this for a while, on the surface your church may look like one and actually be another type when examined. Here are some characteristics of a church that seeks to be the third option:
  • Students are encouraged to be involved in ministry of all kinds.
  • The thought of depending on the likes of a teenager to get something done may be scary, but not scary enough that it is not done.
  • Students are not turned away from ministries where they may have talents simply because of their age. An example of this would be worship teams. Some students are very gifted, but some adults are intimidated by someone younger doing a better job.
  • Does your church allow students to use equipment that may be valuable? (sometimes it is appropriate to put limits on this kind of thing, but some churches don't even trust the youth pastor)
  • When one student makes a mistake (especially a significant one) is judgement placed on the entire program or ministry?
  • Is failure by students expected and looked at as an opportunity for growth?
  • Are the ministries students can be involved with limited to ministry with children or their own age group?
Evaluating this is not an exact science. There may be very good reason for some limitations. Still if we want students to believe they are valued and the church is interested in them then we need to communicate that message. This is one of the most difficult parts of student ministries. If we want students to graduate from High School but not from their faith it is important to show them there is a place for them in the church.

It may be the case that youth ministry has, at times, been its own worst enemy in this area (breaking things and not being responsible). This is one of the most difficult cultures to change in the church. I have tried at the churches I have ministered in to varying degrees of success. I don't know what it will take in your situation to make this a positive in your church, but it is important. I might suggest starting with the Senior Pastor.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Working for the Parents

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of youth ministry is dealing with parents. Even when I say the words, "dealing with parents" it sounds almost derogatory in nature. I certainly don't intend it that way.

I wonder how many of those in youth ministry speak of parents with the tone that I have in the past. Parents love their kids more then anyone else, they want what is best for them, and they have insight into the heart and mind of their kids that youth pastors and workers simply don't. They may not be ministry experts and they may not understand why Korn is spelled with a backwards "R," but they have been the primary disciplers of their kids since they were born.

In one sense those in youth ministry work for the parents. I know you might be thinking you work for the board or your senior pastor, but think about it. What group of people can get you fired the fastest? The answer is the parents. Even if the Senior Pastor wanted to fire you, if the parents like you, it would be difficult for him to do so. If the Senior pastor likes you and all the parents want to see you gone, you will be gone.

This is the way it should be. You don't have to agree with parents all the time and you don't have to answer to them in the same way you answer to a board or your senior pastor. Yet they have more influence on the kids then you will ever have. It seems to me Youth leaders would be better off (and so would the kids) if youth ministry worked with the parents.

  • Parents would be great leaders in the youth ministry because they have a vested interest.
  • Youth ministries should ask, "how can we help parents become better parents?" for the sake of the kids.
  • Youth leaders should be working side by side with the Senior Pastor, Adult ministries Pastor, and Kids Pastor to reach the entire family.
  • Trix are for kids, but youth ministry is not as much about cool trix as originally thought.
  • There should be more focus on providing family time rather then taking another night away from the family. Families have a busy schedule as it is, why should we unnecessarily add to it?
  • A simpler ministry would be more effective in the long run?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Does Exigetical Teaching Have a Place in Youth Ministry?

When I was a kid I would visit my Grandpa and Grandma in Wisconsin. My Grandpa served as the pastor of a very small church in a small town called Comstock. On Sunday mornings I would accompany my grandparents to Sunday school and church. You need to understand Sunday school consisted of pretty much the same people who attended church. There was only one class and it was not intended to be friendly to kids. My grandpa taught the class and the people (all 7 or 8) interacted.

As far as youth ministry is concerned, this was not the best environment to help a young boy(maybe 13 or 14 years old) grow spiritually, but for me it is one of my most important spiritual memories. I don't know what it was, perhaps I was intimidated by all the gray hair in the room, whatever the case I paid attention. I even took notes. I learned about God and about my relationship with Him.

Perhaps youth ministry needs to take a closer look at teaching the Bible in more of an exegetical fashion. I wonder if teachers and preachers get in the way of God's word when we try to make it "relevant" or we worry too much about keeping students attention? Maybe students are capable of more then we think. Maybe we should be challenging them to partake in "big church" with the intent of learning and growing in the same ways adults do.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A New Blog by PJ

This is the first blog on PJ's Youth Ministry Minute. This blog will be updated at least once a week usually on Monday with some challenging thoughts about youth ministry. It is not intended to proide youth ministry answers, but rather to provoke thought.

I look forward to great thoughts and discussions.