Snapshot of an EYM Church

At New Colony Baptist Church, Billerica, Massachusetts the work was investment:   “When we talk about what separates us from other community groups – we really focus on mentoring. 11 people are mentors. Kids have mentors assigned to them – to call, write, hang out . We spend lots and lots of time with our students, and they spend lots and lots of time with their friends. Its all about relationships with us – it’s our #1 form of evangelism – we want to love kids, not so that they’ll become Christian but – we give them time to date Jesus. And when they’re ready to marry him, they can. If they decide not to, we still love them and walk with them. My staff are invested – here several nights a week, have the kids over to their houses, etc.  Now people know what we expect from our youth staff. When I came there was no such thing – the staff was used for other things.”

“They’re learning by example,” said a parent. “There are all these adults who invest in them—they hang out with them during the week—out for a coke, out for a movie. They see everybody else doing it more than Sundays so they do it more than Sundays. And they talk about it.”

“Growing ministries with youth takes time—and it takes purpose. We’re committed to the radical transformation of the youth of Middlesex County,” said an adult youth worker. When I look at the size of our church and the percentage of people who are involved and committed to youth ministry – it’s impressive.”  New Colony has done more than establish a fellowship of believers; it has created a congregational youth ministry culture that produces disciples and missionaries.

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ prepared by us, written not with ink but the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.:  2 Corinthians 3:2-3.

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Investment……………………………Anita Smallin

Investment: It’s not just for 401Ks anymore

As an experiment, I just asked the Wednesday morning Bible Study a question: What does the word investment mean to you?  The whole group answered “money.”

Investment: According to Dictionary.com, there are 11 definitions of the word investment. It’s not just about writing a check.  Other definitions involve committing to an office or a position or involve how time is spent.  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about investment… financial investment AND personal investment.

We invest in portfolios, stocks and bonds…but what about investing in people or the life of the church?  What does it mean to invest in a person?  What would it mean to invest in the staff of the congregation?   What does it mean to invest in the life of a youth?

When I read through the Faith Assets, I keep going back to “investment.”  Participating in relationships, caring for another, participating in training?  Investment is all over the ministries of these Exemplary congregations.  It takes time and energy, and in some cases, money.   Going to church, staying in our bubble and going home is easy. Investing in the community?  There’s the challenge.  Being a member of church isn’t always easy.  It takes time, money and energy.  It takes investment.  We take a risk, and we know that there is a “return on investment.”

Where do we invest our time?  Where do we invest our talents?  How is our investment like the parables of the talents?

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2025:14-30&version=MSG

Anita Smallin just accepted the position of Program Director at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp (www.carolinefurnace.org)!  She starts in June.   Also, she is in the final throws of training for her first 5K.  Go Anita.

Snapshot from an EYM Church

With no budget for a paid youth director, and no expectation of hiring one, the YOUNG PEOPLE at St. Michael’s Parish in Albion Nebraska decided,  “now is the acceptable time” for a thriving youth ministry and their parents, adult volunteers and priest followed. Could the genius of this ministry be the parish’s ability to accept and encourage student leadership?  Perhaps…the young people revitalized this ministry and the current activities need the initiative of students.

Could the genius of this ministry be in the longevity and sense of call of its youth coordinator? Perhaps . . .The Youth Coordinator and his all volunteer team has been working with young people in this parish for more than 15 years keeping the vision of a thriving youth ministry alive through the lean times.

Could the genius of this youth ministry be in the support it gets from families and parents? Perhaps . . . this is a community  which strongly values family life. Could the genius of this youth ministry be in its interlocking practices?  Perhaps . . . all the components serve to draw and keep young people flowing through relationships that give them opportunities to study and serve.

The genius here could be each of these as well as the interwoven sum of them all that serve to create a culture of ministry in which young people are allowed, even needed to be the church of today.  There is no waiting for someone who can come and do it better, no waiting for the young people to become adults before they take on significant roles in the life of this parish.

“See, now is the acceptable time; see now is the day of salvation!  We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”  2 Corinthians 6:2-3.

Adult Youth Workers in the Exemplary Congregations

Today’s we’re sharing some of the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study results.  You can find all of the original study documents at www.exemplarym.com

The commitment of the adult youth workers in these congregations is noted by pastors in their responses to the open-ended questions and in what the adult workers report about themselves. Their answers to items on the survey evidence:

  • A Centrality of Faith
  • Sense of Social Responsibility

that are well above average. These are adult Christians for whom faith is a compass for the attitudes and decisions of their lives; the beliefs and values behind these attitudes and decisions result in active regard for their “neighbor.”

With respect to the effectiveness of the youth and family ministries in their congregations, these greatly involved congregational adults reflect enthusiastic opinions. Three measures that reflect what their congregation is doing draw scores that rank well above previous national samples of adult youth workers:

  • Effectiveness of Parental Education
  • Training of Adult Youth Workers, and
  • Youth Ministry Characteristics.

These adult youth workers are especially pleased with their congregation’s “culture” as reflected in the following dimensions of their church’s life and ministry:

  • Welcoming Atmosphere
  • Pastor’s Support of Christian Education and Youth Ministry
  • Congregation Makes Me Think
  • Importance of This church to Me
  • Congregation’s Social Interaction

Clearly, those persons closest to young people in these exemplary congregations have high regard for what is being done in their congregations not only in the lives of youth, but in their lives and the lives of other adults as well.

Coaching Your Pastor……………………..Nancy Going

Exemplary Youth Ministry is really about leadership on multiple levels– your leadership as the youth minister, your adult leaders. One of the key findings of the EYM study is that the pastor is the chief youth minister.  A senior pastor who champions and keeps youth ministry central to the congregation’s culture is critical.

Now in case you are nodding your head saying, “I KNEW IT!  That’s why I’m having such a hard time.  My senior pastor doesn’t get it. My senior pastor says, “that’s why we hired you—you are supposed to take care of it.  My senior pastor doesn’t support me or youth ministry.”

Two things.

These pastors were NOT the hands-on youth ministers.  They were leaders who advocated for and kept youth ministry on the front of the congregational agenda.  Not a“ youth ministry is one among the many plates we have in the air” agenda, but youth ministry is AT THE FRONT of the church’s ministry priorities.

And secondly, if that kind of leadership doesn’t describe your church, here’s your new job.  Coach your pastor.  Don’t resent your pastor.  Don’t go and talk to your youth team about your pastor.  Your pastor likely doesn’t know what the EYM discovered about the powerful leadership role he/she plays in youth ministry. Use the EYM study results to help inform your pastor.  Work together to position your pastor in new ways.  And make room for your pastor in your ministry leadership.

Dr. Nancy Going is a 20 some year veteran of congregational youth ministry.  She coordinates the Distributed (distance) youth ministry students at Luther Seminary.  She did her PhD research by interviewing adolescents from the Exemplar congregations.

EYM wants YOU!…………………………………Nancy Going

How do you move your church into EYM practices?  We know it seems like you’re being asked to change the rug with the furniture still on it.

But you are digging in.  Many of you already know the findings of the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study.  You know about the 44 Faith Assets that were developed to share those findings.  Some of you have been using the assets to help assess your ministry.  You know that you’ve already got assets.  But there are places you have to start from scratch, and you have people expecting certain pieces of furniture to stay right were it is.

We started this blog not just to throw the EYM findings in front of you, but to give voice to you.  The practitioner.  The congregation.  This blog is the platform for the person who works with young people, and wants to aim youth ministry at a different target– characteristics of mature Christian faith in students.  This blog allows the church to learn from you.

We want to hear your voice share the EYM story.  We want the youth ministry world to hear from you about what you’ve discovered about moving the rug and how some furniture can be re-covered.   We want to hear about how youth ministry has become “who we are” for your church.   We want to hear the joys and the struggles of YOUR exemplary youth ministry journey.

Email us at eym@luthersem.edu and I’ll get you lined up to be one of bloggers.  You can do it just once, or keep putting your ideas and experiences out there over time.

Show us your exemplary colors.

Dr. Nancy Going is a 20 some year veteran of congregational youth ministry.  She coordinates the Distributed (distance) youth ministry students at Luther Seminary.  She did her PhD research by interviewing adolescents from the Exemplar congregations.

Dispelling Cultural Myths……………………………….Tim Coltvet

In Disconnected: Parenting Teens in a MySpace World, Chap and Dee Clark take on a popular cultural myth that, sadly, most of us in youth ministry buy hook, line, and sinker.  Simply, that teenage youth do not want to spend time with their parents.  We often run into the smokescreen when recruitment for small groups comes around.  We think, “I bet Jimmy or Janie’s mom/dad would be a great small group leader.”  But, after planting the seed, we soon get the parent’s somewhat dejected response, “Jimmy/Janie doesn’t want me to be their small group leader, sorry.”  All too often, we give up with their response.

Not so fast!  The EYM assets, particularly Asset 44, Fosters Parent-Youth Relationships: offers parent- youth activities that strengthen parent-youth relationships parallels Chap’s research, and give strong grounds for us to engage that dejected parent in further conversation.  Congregations that are fostering a mature Christian faith are somehow finding ways to navigate around and/or through the smokescreen separating parents and youth in their respective faith journeys.

Take, for example, Rochester Covenant church in Rochester, Minnesota.  This congregation finds vibrant life in their senior high ministry through the place they meet, their homes.  Parents are regularly involved in hosting and welcoming senior high students into their homes for discipleship and fellowship as Christian people.  One might think that this would be a barrier to youth involvement.  Quite to the contrary, an authentic expression of faith emerges as parent and youth make their way in their respective faith journeys.  Kenda Creasy Dean’s statement at Luther Seminary’s First/Third Event becomes the goal:

The best way to stimulate spiritual health in a congregation is to invest in the spiritual growth of young people.  The best way to stimulate spiritual health in young people is to invest in the spiritual growth of their parents.”

Let’s let Jesus move youth ministry beyond the cultural myths.

Rev. Tim Coltvet starting cutting his teeth in youth ministry about fifteen years ago.  He currently coordinates contextual learning and coaching at Luther Seminary’s Center for Children Youth, and Family Ministry.