You have already spent time in developing a purpose statement for your congregation’s youth ministry program. You are now ready for the vital stage of keeping this purpose on track. It’s time to map out how to sustain a focus and keep things going as envisioned.
Incorporate the 4 S’s
Four key pillars grow out of a purpose-directed youth ministry program. These pillars are manifest in different ways in different locations under different styles of leadership.
We often downplay the fellowship factor in youth ministry. We want to “get past” the stage of fun and games, of “simply” entertaining kids. However, kids need the social aspect of youth ministry. They are looking for a friend and a friendly place. At this point in their life, youth don’t always have a huge “spiritual agenda.” They just want to be accepted. More importantly, they are looking for a place they won’t be rejected. Fun–good clean fun–is hard to find. The Church can provide this for youth and that is OK.
This pillar is what the Church is all about–helping young people grow in their personal walk with their Lord. Youth workers want young people to encounter the forgiveness of a loving Lord and understand that they are justified through faith in Christ Jesus. It is essential that a purpose-directed youth ministry program focus on spiritual matters.
Under this pillar, young people learn to give themselves away in love. This learning doesn’t always come easily, but it comes through persistence, and through the expectation that this is what we do as the people of God. We serve others with no expectation of anything in return. We serve because Jesus served us and taught us to serve.
The Great Commission tells us to “go therefore…” It is a command for Christians of all ages to seek the lost. Young people have a great ability to reach out to their peers. It is a time in which their peers are seeking direction. It is a time when churched youth can extend an invitation to their friends to come and join them in the various functions of their Church life.
A key to sustaining a purpose-directed youth ministry program is to find a balance of these pillars within your context. They might not all be “equal,” and that is OK. The important factor is that all four pillars are present.
Incorporate the 3 C’s
The three “C’s” are routines that a youth ministry program can follow over weeks, months, and even years to sustain its vital purpose and sense of mission.
The ability to be consistent will contribute greatly to sustaining a purpose-directed youth ministry program. Consistency may seem to contrast with many things that are desired in a “vibrant, cutting-edge” youth ministry program, but consistency is not synonymous with a void of creativity. Consistency is needed in the life of a teenager.
Examples of program consistency include:
A weekly Youth Night.
A pattern of programming within these youth nights.
Strong Sunday morning high school Bible class.
Regular/annual seasonal events.
Monthly fellowship events.
Regular service activities.
Regular “biggie” events (larger scale, special events such as a ski retreat or other non-annual, planned activity).
Yearly program planning.
Put everything the youth are doing on a calendar that is published for the congregation (and is youth friendly in design). Establish multiple places where this calendar can be seen: a physical calendar in a youth room, a posting on your congregation’s Web site, a monthly mailing to each home, a monthly e-mail sent out to the youth group. The more people see something in print, the more likely they are to participate.
This element takes the calendar posting one step further. Detailed information about upcoming events and activities needs to be shared early and frequently. Examples of such sharing are: a weekly e-mail newsletter sent directly to youth, flyers sent via snail mail, etc. Again, a variety of multimedia resources should be used. Still, the best communication is through personal contact–a one-to-one conversation with a young person.
Consistency and routine may not sound like typically desired adjectives for youth ministry. However, what consistency and routine deliver are desired: reliability and sustainability. The goal of purpose based youth ministry programs is focused on the long haul–a ministry to youth over a period of time when they need consistency and support.
In 25 years of ministry, Dr. Steve Christopher, has been involved in helping 4 churches build and sustain effective youth ministries. He has served as Chairman of a District Youth Committee, taught youth ministry at Concordia University in Irvine, CA, and served as a District Youth Executive. He and his wife Dee live in Northern California where they serve on the staff at Our Savior Lutheran Ministries and offer daily support to their two teenage children.
Published January 2006