Implementing a Purpose-Directed Youth Ministry

Now that you have drafted a youth ministry mission and purpose statement, you are eager and anxious to round up the youth and conquer the world in the Name of Christ. You are ready to make a difference in your congregation and community. You have no time to waste thinking about such things as administrative procedures, the inner workings of congregational politics, and the other “red-tape” could (potentially) hamper your efforts.

That’s too bad.

After so much time, energy, and passion spent discovering your mission and purpose, it really is a waste not to invest a bit more and explore how to make the most of your youth ministry program by coordinating it with the rest of your congregation. So, before we charge into the fray, let’s catch our breath, swallow our pride, and revert back to three basic principles that we all learned in our early days of Kindergarten.

1. Share Everything.

Let me be crystal clear: When it comes to communicating within a team, you cannot share too much. That fact is worth repeating: You cannot over-communicate.  During my time working in team ministry, I have come to understand that there are few things senior pastors appreciate more than team mates who communicate well. There are also few things that senior pastors enjoy less than surprises. Do your team a favor, keep them in the know and don’t ever let your team members be the last to know.

We all know the saying, “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  While it may be easier to carryout your program goals in silence and ask for forgiveness if necessary, it could backfire BIG TIME! Such a situation could lead to the other, not so well-known, saying, “it’s easier to look for another job than lose the trust of your ministry team.” Keeping the lines of communication wide open will foster and nurture a positive relationship, and the level of trust and respect will grow.  Share where you need help. Share where you celebrate successes. Remember, your relationship with your ministry team is important, having their support is critical.

But even more than sharing all your plans, let your team serve as a sounding board. Work to ensure that the direction in which you are passionately running is complementary to the larger picture of ministry within the congregation, which leads into the same basic principle to keep in mind.

2. Play Nicely With Others.

Recently, our Day School celebrated the time honored tradition of Field Day. The morning was filled with tests of skill, speed, and strength. However, while the first events were exciting, the entire crowd was massing with energy and anticipation for the final event: the Tug-of-War! Four teams competed in a tournament for the honor of hauling the weaker team across the line.

Too many teams in ministry work this way, pushing and pulling for time, space, and resources. In such a scenario, people often end up hurt, offended, and missing in action. Don’t let this happen to you! Do some preventative maintenance to ensure (or at least help prevent) this from happening (or from happening again).  Play nicely with others. Hopefully, when you or your creative team put your mission statement together, you did so with the mission statement of the congregation in mind. If not, you may want to rework it a bit. This is a vital point. Your ministry area’s mission and purpose help you decide the shape and action of its programs and attitude. It is imperative that the mission guide you in ways that “play nicely” with the rest of the congregation.

Be sure that your interests keep the interests of the entire congregation in mind. The goal is not to be some “youth ministry cowboy” who rides solo, doing whatever he feels needs to be done for the sake of the youth and burning the bridges along his way. You will need help. You will need support. You will need finances. Thus, you will need to complement each other. Cooperate. Don’t pit yourself or the ministry program of which you are a steward against the other ministries of your church. Work together toward common goals. Bottom line: play nicely.

3. When You Go Out Into The World, Watch Out For Traffic, Hold Hands, And Stick Together.

The view from my office window is incredible. From my desk, I can watch children playing and walking through the Church courtyard. I can always spot the Kindergarten and the pre-Kindergarten classes; they are the ones resembling a train, connected by hanging onto a rope. Each child follows the leader to travel safely from one place to the next.

Here’s the connection: the world is a dark and dangerous place with the devil prowling around looking for someone to devour. Yet, in the middle of the darkness, our Savior has planted His disciples as beacons of light that shine and pierce the darkness with His grace, mercy, and life. This salvation plan creates a beautiful view, but it is not always safe. When sending your students into the world do not send them alone. Remember to watch out for traffic–keep your eyes out for the devil and his temptations and traps. Hold hands–hang on to each other for support and encouragement and safety. And for goodness sake, stick together–partner up with other ministry groups in your congregation.

Here’s an example of how that partnering takes shape: I remember one fundraiser that involved selling pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. It was a great success, but not necessarily because we raised a ton of money. In fact, I don’t even remember how much we did (or maybe did not) raise, but I do remember the resulting effect on our students. You see, we didn’t want to sell frozen pies, or even use ready made pie crusts. We wanted to offer grandma-style, flaky, buttery crust, and made-from-scratch pies. One problem: none of our students knew how to make this kind of wonder. Our solution was to partner the students with members of our congregation’s LWML. I have no idea how we ended up financially, but I know (by serving as the official quality control tester) that the pies were spectacular, and the relationships that were formed were even more incredible. Imagine, youth spending quality time with role-model women of faith, talking about pies, life, and Jesus. You can’t buy that kind of positive relationship building!

Bind the youth ministry of your congregation together with your congregation’s other ministry areas. Help to erase the false concept that the youth of today are lost. Let your congregation see that their students are not only a part of the body of Christ, but are functional, beneficial, and healthy members of that body. When you share the inherent strengths of youth ministry program (vibrancy, enthusiasm, endurance, or what ever is unique to your group) and add them to the strengths of the other ministry groups of your church (stability, role-models, maturity, wisdom, etc.), God will multiply the results in amazing ways.

Having a mission and a purpose is great. Putting it into practice is the key. Help the words of your mission statement leap off the page, fix themselves on the hearts of your students, and find expression in their everyday lives. And keep in mind these three simple lessons we all learned in Kindergarten: share everything, play nicely, and when you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Published January 2006

Published January 1, 2006

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