Posts Tagged ‘ Intergrated Youth Ministry ’

EYM On the Road………………………………..Terri Martinson Elton

We called it, “EYM On the Road.” The weekend began with three Luther Seminary staff piling into a mini-van and heading across the farm fields of Minnesota, Power Points and lectures ready. The weekend ended with an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the greater church, and for the people God’s called into leading youth and family ministry in these changing times. Let me explain.

Luther Seminary has been committed to sharing the findings of the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study to as many people as we can for almost five years now. We, at Luther, have been doing this in many ways, including developing workshops, websites, webinars and coaching congregations. Last year we made the decision that it was time to take the “workshop,” developed to help congregational teams think about the EYM findings through the lens of their own context, out to the church. And South Dakota was our first destination.

For almost two days, on a weekend in the end of July, 30 people from eastern South Dakota came together eager to learn. During our time, we shared stories, about young people and vibrant congregational life; we rethought what it is to be church in these days; and we focused on the call to join young people and families in a journey of discipleship. As our time progressed, the posture of the participants shifted from taking in information, to imagining what it means to create a congregational culture of youth ministry, to brainstorming ways to move into such a new reality, and to networking with future long-term conversation partners. A new way of thinking about ministry with and for young people and their families was birthed, and hope was in the air.

When the three of us piled back into the van at the end, we did so with a sense of gratitude and humility. I am convinced that the findings of this study are challenging us, even forcing us, as leaders in youth ministry to look with new eyes at ministry with young people, and be open to new things. And as we do, our faithful God meets us and the Spirit moves among us, and we are not the same.

I am looking forward to seeing what God is up to in South Dakota in the weeks and months and years ahead. God has planted gifted and passionate leaders there, people that really care about young people and God’s church, and that are willing to find a new way forward together. May you too be so fortunate as to discover travel companions as you seek to faithful be in ministry with and for young people.

Terri Martinson Elton is the Director of the Center for Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  She has a PhD in Congregational Mission and Leadership and teaches youth ministry and other classes at Luther.


Name it……………………………………..Kristen Baltrum

When I first started in professional youth ministry, I simply wanted to create an environment of relationship and “church fun” that mirrored my own experience as a teen. While that worked on some levels, I was pretty sure something else was happening that I could not name – I had no language for it. After a number of years in the field, I decided I needed “Language Lessons.”

After a few years studying youth and family ministry, continued reflection on the assets of the Exemplary Youth Ministry study, and consultation with many other resources, I realize that my leadership is less about what I am creating in a ministry program, and more about naming what is already happening in the life of the Church and the young people I am called to serve. The “language lessons” were my learning to read and follow the spirit of God, and to help young people and the rest of the church see and follow what God is already doing.

Recently, a shy young adult in our congregation asked if he could round up some folks for a softball team. The congregation responded extremely enthusiastically, and quickly the roster was filled with men and women between the ages of 16 and 70, of all different athletic abilities. A business sponsor for the team even emerged. The games are off and running, with much laughter, encouragement and spirits flying high. Naming this team as a “cross-generational, relational activity in which the resources needed are already woven into the fabric of the community” has been a huge eye opener for all. The team happened naturally, but naming what is happening as the work of the Spirit allows each person to intentionally participate in the life of the Church in new and profound ways.

Kristen Baltrum has been working in Youth Ministry for seventeen years.  She serves and lives and names it in Longmont, CO.

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.

Foundational Relationships…………..Amanda Burke

It is exciting starting out in a new ministry context.  Especially since I am in a totally new place. I’ve been in my new position as Director of Youth and Family Ministry for two weeks.  And a move from Texas to Wisconsin. It is all a little disorienting.  But I am hoping to use that disorientation to help me see.

So like most people I want to get off on the right foot.  There are so many questions running through my head.  What is God doing in this place?  What are the ministry needs here? Where do I start? However, the beauty of it all is that I cannot answer these questions without getting to know people first.  So that’s where I start: to develop genuine caring relationships with the people of this congregation and community.

But I now know that the places to develop relationships are but not just with the youth.  And I am no longer afraid of their parents. I had a lovely lunch with the quilting ladies last week.    I have been to the high schools and met with the principals, and am meeting with the school superintendent. I know I need to get to know the students but also their world.  You can do it too!

Even if people are in a ministry context for a very long time it does not automatically ensure that genuine caring relationships have been formed. And it is so easy to get immersed in programs, that you forget to keep relationships in the forefront.  I have a unique opportunity to start by building them.

Amanda Burke has been doing youth ministry for 10½ years at one church and two weeks at her new site.

Congregational Faith……………….John Roberto

What kind of congregational faith and life nurtures you of maturing Christian faith?  A surprising discovery emerges from the findings of the EYM study: entire congregations make a difference in youth ministry. The congregations in the study are powerful faith and life shaping systems.  Youth ministry doesn’t exist on the side of or separate from the life and ministries of the congregation. Youth ministry is integrated into and supported by the congregation as a whole.  Data from this study indicates that effective youth ministry exists as an integral dimension of a youth-friendly, youth engaging congregation.

The EYM congregation’ integration of young people into the fabric of their lives and ministries is evident in the attitudes of young people toward their church. The data shows that overall culture and climate of these congregations deeply impacts their young people.

In the EYM congregations, getting to know a personal and present God involves more than just dogma or obeying a particular set of rules. These young people come to know a living and active God through relationships with God and the community.  Certainly young people learn the Gospel, the story of Christ and his teaching, and the rich and substantive Christian traditions. The young people in these congregations get to know Jesus Christ through the Witness of believers and ongoing relationship with persons and communities who know Him.  The power of faithful, multi-generational Christian relationships  (“sociality”) is at the heart of effective youth ministry.

John Roberto is the Executive Director of LifelongFaith Associates-, and was the Roman Catholic member of the original Exemplary Youth Ministry Study Leadership Team. The Winter 2009 issue of the journal Lifelong Faith contains an excellent overview article of the EYM Study results.

Youth Leadership……………………………………..Kristen Baltrum

One of the places that churches have been trying for years to incorporate young people has been in congregational leadership—like search teams, or even a token youth position on the church council.  We all know that it mostly hasn’t worked.  But sometimes it does.  It has blossomed in new ways at my church as we are pushing to integrate young people.

We have incredible young leaders here in our congregation, one of whom is being mentored by a young adult who is our incoming Youth Ministry Representative on the church council. Together they make a great team, and the time was right to include this teenager, alongside this young adult, on our council. So they were voted in as a team.  But what happened at the annual meeting brought tears to my eyes. Not only were these two gladly welcomed into official leadership roles but then an older member of the congregation stood up and gave a shout out to another teen who has been serving on our Intern committee all year.

The room applauded loudly. Then, when the next nominating committee was being formed, another older member nominated one of our jr. high students to be on the committee. She accepted the position. I sat back and watched this congregation affirm it’s young leaders with tears in my eyes. This was no longer about TOKEN positions set aside for youth, it was a natural process of recognizing leaders period.  No longer was the message about apprenticing youth into leadership being preached, it was being lived.

Kristen Baltrum has been working in Youth Ministry for seventeen years, and she doesn’t even look it.  She serves and lives in Longmont, CO.

Integrated Youth Ministry……………………..Nancy Going

I just attended the FIRST/THIRD conference at Luther Seminary, where Kenda Dean, Andrew Root and the 120 participants spent two days engaged in theological dialogue about youth ministry.

One of the insights that emerged early in the conversation was the “CAGE” that adolescence has become for many young people.  Does the church and youth ministry perpetuate that cage, or are we “helping young people imagine the world as though the kingdom of God is happening all around them. “ (Kenda Dean)

One of the distinctive characteristics evident in Exemplar congregations was the way that Youth Ministry had become a priority of the church, and the ways that young people were integrated into life of the congregation.  What that looked like was certainly different in each of the 131 churches that completed the study, and in the 21 churches that were chosen for site visits.  But it was there.  And it mattered.

It is also clear that it matters more than ever.  We can note the ways that it matters to the church, and how a focus on Youth Ministry actually helps to create more vibrant congregations.In

But it matters even more for adolescents.  Integrated youth ministry may be one of the few places young people get to experience real relationships in an organization that is attentive to and celebrates people of all ages.  It can release the gifts and capabilities of people otherwise caged and waiting for some magic future age–related purpose and competency.  Our churches can be the places that help to set adolescent captives free.

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.