If you’ve read many of my posts here over the years or know me personally, you know that I love stories. I love reading them, watching them, hearing them, sharing them, and almost everything about them. Stories help us to build relationships, empathize with others, and better understand the world around us. I already wrote a post about youth ministry as story-time a while back, and I don’t want to be like those textbook companies that produce “updated” versions of their textbooks in a new edition that hikes up the price for what is essentially the same material inside. So I’m not going to rehash what was talked about there, but I do want to further explore the idea of stories in youth ministry by having us ask one question to a varying group of people:
“What is your youth ministry story?”
Ask this question to:
Hopefully this will lead to all sorts of other questions and stories. What is it that got you into working with youth ministry? What is different than you expected? How have things changed since you started? What was your own experience as a youth and how is that similar/different from your present situation? Write it out, talk to your spouse or a friend about it, post a comment on this article, or better still, call the individual who was your youth worker when you were younger and tell them your story. Not only can these questions maybe reenergize you in your ministry, but also help you remember what stood out to you as a youth and how you can replicate that in the present.
As youth “graduate” out of the youth ministry (or at least out of high school) and hopefully continue to be an active adult in the church, they offer a unique perspective for you. Have some of your graduates over for dinner or take them out for coffee and ask them to share their story with you. What do they remember about the youth ministry? What stands out to them? What was most important to them? Why did they remain plugged in? This can give you some great feedback with which to shape future programs and ministry opportunities.
Older members of the congregation.
Believe it or not, everyone was young at one point or another. The senior members of your congregation have so much to offer and yet we rarely ask them to help in this way. If you start asking some questions and hearing some stories, maybe you’ll find out that the retired gentleman who sits two pews in front of you was the president of the Walther League when he was a kid, one of your ladies’ Bible study leaders was the adopted mom for her kids’ youth group (and maybe wants to be your group’s adopted grandma), an older couple tells you the story of how they met at a church function, and a newer member tells about how he came to know Christ as an adult and wishes that he had the experience of a youth group. The examples could go on and on, and I’m sure the stories are even more fascinating than anything I could write here. So what are you waiting for? Go get some stories!
The list could go on of people to ask this question to (I think you should probably talk to your pastors, some parents, current youth, etc.), but hopefully this gives you a place to start. Bonus points if you host an event where all of these different groups can get together and swap their youth ministry stories, maybe at a special dinner or a panel discussion. I think you’ll find that the more you start sharing the story of how God has worked in youth ministry over the years, the more excitement, involvement, and support you’ll find for your current ministry, and this is a big step towards a ministry that is built to last. Doing this will give a good glimpse of what heaven will be like: sharing stories of how good God is, how He faithfully has loved His people, and how He works miracles through His Word from generation to generation.