Lately, I'm noticing a greater desire amongst our youth pastors to do ministry together. Yes, first and foremost our mission is to disciple the students in our church and community. But to say that 'that's all we're going to put our hand to' is unwise. The truth is, we're better together. Whether that's regular connection with other youth pastors outside our own church or ministry partnerships with other churches throughout the year, a larger kingdom mentality is will serve you well.
In our last post we wrote about that if you want to increase your ministry to students, you need to adopt a new mindset. A frame of thinking that understands that not only are other people in your church called to youth ministry, but they might be better at it than you! As pastors, we're called to EQUIP people for ministry, not STEAL the ministry God created them for. Changing your thinking on the matter is the first step to seeing a gospel-advancing shift in your youth ministry. But you can't just think right. You have to do right as well. In this post, I'll talk about some practical ways to start equipping your volunteers and stop stealing God-created ministry opportunities.
When I was in youth group, my pastor was my spiritual mentor. Other adults were kicking around of course, but I only took to one. I liked being around the other adults, but when it came to the tough stuff of life they weren’t on my radar. It was my pastor. He was the man. Then he left to a new church in a new city. As a 16-year-old, I remember feeling person-less as it related to my spiritual life
Jeff Locke is the youth pastor in Church in the Hills in Calgary. He's such a good dude. I had the privilege of serving alongside Jeff for a number of years (albeit in a different church).
Can I be honest with you? Nothing is more deflating then when students who used to frequent our youth ministries stop showing up. Sometimes students leave for reasons that have nothing to do with your ministry per se: moving to a new city, graduating high school, wanting to attend church with their parents somewhere else, etc. Other times students just stop showing up for no reason at all (or at least it appears that way at first). A number of years ago I wrote a blog post entitled “8 Reasons Why Students Stop Showing Up”. It was retweeted by a couple influential leaders in the youth ministry world and the post gained more traction than any other post I’ve ever written. It went like this:
This could be the most controversial post I will ever write. Who knows, only time will tell. Confession time: I’m obsessed with games. I love them. LOVE THEM. It seems as is each youth group has a game that’s theirs. Just theirs. Or at least it’s a game that is unique and special to their tribe. Whether it’s Dutch Blitz, Scatterball, or Kamikaze Dodgeball, youth pastors around the world are in the hunt for a game that will connect students to one another, make students laugh, or be an anthem of their retreats/camps (or a game they can revert to to bail them out when a lesson goes bad!).
For years we dreamt of splitting our Jr. High and Sr. High ministries. I’m convinced that if you can do it, you should do it. There’s plenty of conversations that have taken place online about this (see here, here, here and listen here for starters). I’m super aware that there are some who passionately argue that there is too much age/stage segregation in church ministries as it is and this is an unnecessary division. The bottom line for myself is that there is too huge of a developmental difference between a prepubescent 12-year-old boy and an off to College 18-year-old girl. The age gap isn’t much, but the development gap is pronounced.