Sunday, February 27, 2011

    Guest Post: Being Church - Recovering Spiritual Gifts in Youth Ministry Pt. 2

    This is part two of a  guest post by our colleague TJ Humphrey who serves as Youth Director at Trinity Christian Reformed Church in St. Louis, Missouri. In part one, TJ explored the Biblical imperative for helping teens discover their spiritual gifts. 

    In this post, he shares how his ministry made a shift in focus from a more recreational program to a ministry focused on worship. In so doing, they helped their teens unearth their gifts for ministry.  You can read part one of this post here.
    After my study [of the focus on spirtual gifts in the New Testament],
     I wanted to see what would happen if we restructured our youth group time around the discovery and implementation of spiritual gifts. Interestingly enough, we designed a worship service that, for lack of a better word, is liturgical. It is composed of many different elements that are led by many different students, according to their gifts. In other words, we designed a worship service around the students’ giftedness.

    So, the students who are gifted in a more “behind the scenes way,” help out with technical stuff, set up and clean up. Some other students lead a part of the service, whether it be through prayer, music, the call to worship, reading…etc. We even have our adult leaders plugged into our time together. I teach during the service and our other leaders design a fellowship/game time each week after the service.

    Right now, our worship time looks like the following:

    • A student who is passionate about seeking God’s presence opens us up in prayer.
    • Students with musical ability lead us in a time of singing.
    • There is a reading from Scripture from a student who loves getting into the Scriptures.
    • Then, I teach.
    • A student who has a strong gift of discernment then leads us in a time of prayer in response to the teaching. He decides what we are going to pray for and how we are going to pray, whether we do it individually, corporately, or in small groups.
    • The musical students lead us in one more song.
    • Another student leads us in a time where we greet one another.
    • Lastly, another student leads us in a final prayer time, a prayer for strength to carry out the great commission.

    Also, keep in mind that there are students who work behind the scenes, whether it be through working powerpoint, clean up or set up…etc. We also have a student who has a passion and a gift for evangelism, so her primary responsibility is to share her faith and to invite friends. Don’t get me wrong here, that is a responsibility that we all share. However, we simply acknowledge that she has a particular giftedness for it.

    The transition into this “new style” of worship has been an interesting one, to say the least, but God has blessed it in so many ways. Other than numerical growth, we have seen a very genuine growth in our core students and a coming alive of students who were struggling spiritually. I am beginning to see why the practicing of spiritual gifts in the life of the church on a regular basis was such a big deal to Peter and Paul.

    Remember, the game is just not as much fun when you’re on the sidelines. Kids want to be in the game. After all, professional athletes don’t start practicing only after they reach adulthood. No, they start as youth, develop habits of practice as youth, and fall in love with the sport as youth, enough at least to dedicate their lives to the game.

    Brian's Comment: I invited TJ to write this post after a chat he and I had one morning a few months ago. He shared how he'd felt called to help his ministry transition from the more attractional model he'd inherited (where much of the program was done for the youth) to a model based around youth leadership and worship. I was impressed with his willingness to give this new approach a try, trusting that though students may love fun and games, they also crave meaningful faith experiences that call upon their own gifts. What are your thoughts?  Can you see such a transformation as possible for your ministry? Do you have your own story of helping teens to discover their spiritual gifts?


    Anonymous said...

    Come and be, rather than come and see. That's my philosophy too!

    Darren Kropf said...

    This is good stuff. My question - how do you draw out the spiritual gifts of youth when they'd rather fade in the background for fear of looking stupid?

    At least once a year we have a service that is led by our youth. While a few get excited, many need to be prodded to participate. If I would let them, most of the youth would choose to do the behind the scenes stuff because it's the easier way out. Should I keep hounding everyone to test a spiritual gift or just let the select confident few take the lead?

    "Now, you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." 1 Cor. 12:27 said...

    That's a difficult one. My advice, not that I've perfectly figured this out just yet, is this:
    1) Have strong teaching that emphasizes their participation. We have spent nearly the last two months focusing on spiritual gifts and ministry.
    2) If you're not excited about it, the kids won't be either. Set the example by showing how using your gifts to glorify God and to serve others brings you great joy. Again, we were designed by God to use our gifts in ministry...whenever we fail to do so we will always feel incomplete. They need to hear you say that.
    3) Lastly, if kids really don't want to be involved front and center, find something for them to do behind the scenes. If it is a fear of embarrassment, remind them that its not going to be perfect. You're not aiming for perfection, but genuine service. It's not about's about serving.

    Also, we built this ministry around the students giftedness. In other words, we flexed really far to customize something that most of the students already loved to do.

    An example. On several occasions, I noticed a girl in my group drawing sketches while I was teaching. My initial reaction was to tell her to quit and to pay attention. However, this girl is really an amazing artist...she definitely has a gift for it! So, I ask her to use her gift in such a way that it will minister to everyone else while we are worshiping. So, now she draws/ paints during the worship services and the group is edified by her gift.

    Brian Kirk said...

    I love the example of including the artist. It reminds that sometimes we miss seeing a student's gift because they don't seem to fit into our preconceived plans or ideas of how things might go.