“So, what did you think of the lesson?”
“It was pretty good, it really made me think,” Leah responded.
I thought to myself, “Awesome! I am the greatest youth worker to ever live!” OK, maybe not. But at least I was off to a good start. Leah continued to say how excited she was to have someone serving as youth director. She then proceeded to ask one of the most profound questions ever to be asked of someone working with youth: “So, what do you do the rest of the week?”
Leah asked an innocent question. But what makes this question profound is that it gets at the heart of effective youth ministry. This question is what separates a youth ministry program that exists from a youth ministry that significantly impacts the lives of youth. This question is what really separates a youth ministry Sunday afternoon providing teenagers with their weekly fix of pizza and soda and a little bit of fun and maybe throw in a devotion, from a youth ministry that truly seeks to make a radical difference in teenagers lives and teach them the important things of faith. “The rest of the week” is exactly what makes the difference.
When youth ministry is done well, it looks beyond the pizza and fun to find ways to impact the lives of youth with the Word of God. At a child’s Baptism, the congregation promises to provide for the formation and nurturing of faith in that child. Effective youth ministry spends hours developing and preparing a holistic approach to help these baptized children-turned-youth affirm their identity in Christ and to share this life giving faith with others.
When one considers the amount of things a professional youth worker needs to spend time working on, the question of “what do you do with the rest of your week?” seems a bit ridiculous. Realistically, there is not enough time for one youth worker to do all that needs to be done to best meet all youths’ needs. However, the following suggestions are for youth workers who wish to build a more purposeful youth program:
Contact youth. Build relationships that foster conversations about faith and that make it possible to be a part of a youth’s life outside of the youth room.
- Include parents in activities. Train and equip them to be the primary faith formers in their children’s lives.
- Stay in tune with youth culture and subcultures that have significant impact on teenagers lives.
- Prepare relevant lessons and activities that nurture youths in faith.
- Train and equip other adults and peers to be active participants in the lives of youth.
- Select/write curriculum that teaches the Word and Confessions in truth and purity.
- Connect youth in a life of worship, service, nurture, fellowship, and evangelism.
- Make sure you manage risk at all activities in this age of litigation.
Much research has been and is being done on the fostering and formation of faith. The research clearly speaks to the role of the faith community in this process. When youth ministry is done well, it seeks to enlighten the faith formation of youth, which includes the active engagement of the entire faith community, but most importantly, the youths’ parents. Through youth ministry, congregations can significantly impact the lives of today’s youth and generations to come.
So, what do you do with the rest of your week?