So this last week was spent participating in a class on Youth Ministry Methods at Multnomah Biblical Seminary. I wrote a short blog on it about “Intergenerational Discipleship” but I wanted to share some reflections on the highlights that I had from what I learned from my professor, Rob Hildebrand, and from the other students, most of whom have had a fair amount of experience in youth ministry as a youth pastor or director.
We spent time trying to define what youth ministry is. Some answers that were given were, “an intentional pouring into kids and families lives”; “cross-cultural ministry”; “intergenerational”; and “building a redemption community.” Personally, I like all of these answers, but my personal favorite is “building a redemption community.” (I didn’t even come up with that one!) We spent some time talking about the history of youth ministry, literature for youth leaders, models of ministry, programming for games and youth services, how to plan youth mission trips and retreats, methods and topics for preaching, and how to create a philosophy of ministry. We also read the book “Hurt” by Chap Clark (which I will post thoughts about later) and discussed our thoughts and experience as it related to Clark’s claim that teenagers have been systemically abandoned by adults.
A few take away points that I got from it were the importance of building leaders in the church, giving yourself a good amount of preparation time by using a programming schedule for events and a teaching schedule, and the ego-centrism that is so common in teens and adults in our consumer culture.
First, Building leaders among the adults and teens in your church is so important because each group needs the other to learn from, be inspired by, and to have unity with as part of the body of Christ. Investing time into leadership development through meetings, personal discipleship and mentoring, and praying for one another is crucial. I love being a part of the intern program that I am in at Central Bible. I learn so much by doing, listening, and reading about youth ministry. Second, planning ahead for events, teaching, and games is helpful for: putting together the logistics and materials you need; communicating with leaders, students, and parents; and showing that you do have organizational skills. If you do have problems with organizational skills or putting together a calendar I would recommend looking into websites such as Youth Specialties or just googling “youth group teaching calendar” to get some ideas about how to improve those skills. I also was able to appreciate the reason behind doing games. I grew up in a youth group that never did games at youth group, but I think that after this week I am more open to the idea of doing games when I become a youth pastor. I might not have them every week, but if I could put together one big good game every month or two months that was high quality, I would enjoy doing that. Third, it is very important that your goal for youth ministry is to connect students with your church. It can be tempting to say that a large amount of students coming to your program is successful, but if they never make the transition into being a part of the church body at large, they become another statistic that proves that adolescents are leaving the church at an increased level once they leave high school. One way that you can reach these kids and get them to see themselves more as part of the church is to get them serving in other ministries in your church with adults who might not even be involved in your youth group. Every week I am a part of getting kids to volunteer for doing the offering and greeting people at the door. This helps people in our congregation see the youth are involved and it shows the youth that they are appreciated. Even older adults in our church take time to go out of their way to introduce themselves to kids in the youth group. I think that when students know that they are loved by God and others, it can make a huge impact on how they perceive themselves, God, and the church.
I can’t wait to put the skills that I learned into practice. Please continue praying that God would use me to reach students for Christ. Also, if you are involved in youth ministry, what is an important lesson you have learned?