Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    5 Signs of Youth Ministry #3: Yield

    Part three of a mini-series about directional signs that can help move our youth ministries to become less programmed and more missional.

    So far in this series we've considered the plusses of heeding the "No Standing" and the "Detour" signs as a way to engage our ministries more deeply in mission and less in "activities."  Today we come upon the yield sign and it stands as a reminder that youth ministry should not just be ministry for youth but, more importantly, ministry "by" youth. 

    Oh, how often I have forgotten this principle over the years, slipping into old (re: bad) habits of letting the adults of the ministry do all the planning and decision-making, with the youth simply serving as receivers of the ministry program.  If we really want to lead missional ministries, where our youth are equipped to find their own place within the Church's mission, don't we have to be willing to get out of the way and let them lead?  And I'm not just talking about allowing them to plan the next lock-in or wacky game night.  We've got to find ways to let youth guide the outreach, evangelism, study, and worship components of our ministries, too.  And, with any luck, this approach will spill over into the wider congregation, with youth finding that they have something to say when it comes to shaping the mission and worship lives of our local churches.  Are there downsides to this approach? Sure:
    • Adults will lose some measure of control over the direction of the ministry.
    • Adults will find it takes more work to guide teen leaders than just doing things themselves.
    • Adults will have to be willing to let teens try and fail...and try and fail.
    Are their upsides to this approach? Yes:
    • Teens will gain a deeper understanding of what it means to lead in the Church.
    • Teens will develop a greater sense of ownership of their ministry together.
    • Teens will serve as role models to each other.
    • Teens will grow in their vision of ministry as something they do themselves rather than something that is done for/to/at them. 
    One word of caution: I'm not suggesting, as I've seen done in some ministries, that the youth basically be given complete control and the adults simply stand on the sidelines and help as needed.  Teens don't need us hanging out in the back of the room -- they need us at the table and walking alongside of them, offering our advice and the benefit of our experience while also allowing them to make decisions, try new ideas, and explore their particular gifts for ministry.

    So, what might all this look like in your church setting?  A few suggestions for getting started:
    • Form a youth council of teens and adults to help oversee the ministry, with a youth serving as chair.
    • Create small groups for study/prayer within your ministry and train teens to lead these groups (with adult help).
    • Schedule teens to regularly lead your weekly youth group activities such as community builders, Bible study, discussion programs, and worship.  Team them with adults who can offer support and resources. 
    • Encourage your church leaders to invite at least two youth to sit on committees that oversee worship, outreach, evangelism, etc. 
    • Forget Youth Sunday - have youth offering leadership in worship every Sunday!
      Any other suggestions?  How have you involved youth in ministry leadership?  What new ideas would you like to try if only your church or youth were willing? 

      Update: Want to give all this a try but need help? Check out the impressive resources from Endeavor, all designed to lead your ministry toward a more youth-led approach.  Also, check out the thoughtful blog of Endeavor's executive director Timothy Eldred.


      Brandon Collins said...

      Hey Brian,

      Excellent read and very good content.

      Another area that I have seen real success with students taking responsibility is with follow-up of new Christians. It's much easier for them to connect with people they already know than for us to try to build that relationship from scratch.

      I'm planning to link to this article from my new blog. Thanks for the great ideas!

      Brian said...

      Thanks for the response, Brandon. I think your suggestion to encourage peer-to-peer relationships regarding evangelism is great. I'll look forward to checking out your blog.