Posts Tagged ‘ Relational Ministry ’

For Every Sport There is a Season……………………….Jerry Watts

I’m a big fan of the four seasons.  There’s football season, basketball season, baseball season, and… well you get the idea.  If you are a sports aficionado there is always something to fill your TIVO box, fantasy league addiction, swipe your debit card for, or fill up your calendar with.   The same kind of frenetic rhythm is true in the lives of teens as well as our youth ministries today.

There’s the gear up for fall kick-off season, weekly program season, retreat season, confirmation season, summer mission trip season, and … well you get the idea.  There is an info meeting to go to, a deposit check to be cut, and facebook event page to click “maybe” on.   I am certain if you are reading this blog you can easily fill in the blanks of season upon demanding season in the life of a teenager today.

Because of this youth ministry often (and rightly so) tends to look for gaps or windows in those busy seasons to offer retreats, a weekly respite, or frankly make room to share the Gospel.   Either that or we find ways to invest in walking along side youth at their football games, or band concerts, lunch hours, or maybe the occasional 5th quarter party.  I’m not suggesting we abandon all those tools, however I am suggesting that the EYM study and yes Holy Scriptures themselves call us to something more.

The EYM study reminds us that exemplary youth ministries nurture mature Christian youth who see God active in their DAILY lives, who spend regular time in the WORD through a personal devotional life, and recognize God has a purpose for them…today.  These markers go beyond mission trip week, winter camp, youth group night, or any other gap, window, or program wedge we can squeeze into an already packed schedule.

Isaiah 40:8 reminds us that “the grass withers and the flowers fade but the Word of our God stands forever.”  What red thread weaves through the youth ministry you lead or partner with that calls youth to be engaged by God’s Word that supersedes every season? As Isaiah reminds us, in the final analysis, God’s Word is the only thing that will last.  Can we retrain our radar from looking at gaps in a calendar to scan for opportunities to help kids pick up on the voice of God calling, inviting, and speaking to their hearts everyday?   Maybe we don’t need to start by throwing out all of our youth ministry seasons, but maybe we do need to start looking for relationships that can be the mixing boards that sort out the noise of busyness to hear God speak…everyday.

Jerry Watts is still serving as Youth and Family Minister in Plano, TX.  He’s been doing in youth ministry for almost seventeen years.


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.

Welcomes Questions……………………………..Kristen Baltrum

This past week I have had three separate conversations with teenage girls. The first, “Amy,” is a senior in high school and mentoring a first grader at our local elementary school. The little girl’s father overdosed over the weekend. As Amy wonders aloud how to ‘be’ with this little girl, I reminded her to be simply who she is. But then she asked me, “How do I do that if I don’t even know who I am?” The second girl, “Brandi,” is a freshman in college. She said, “I am doing all the right things. I am getting good grades, making good choices, and I know what I am passionate about. But I still don’t know who I am.” Then there is “Cindy”, who is beginning to identify that she simply feels sad all the time. Her comment was “I am just sad. I don’t know who I am. I want to be free.”

The common theme between all of these girls is identity. They are in search of that sense of clarity, of affirmation, of value, and of purpose. The assets from the Exemplar study lay the ground work for this kind of exploration and conversation, and call us as leaders to structure ministry so that they can take place. EYM Asset #14 says “The congregation encourages thinking: welcomes questions and reflection on faith and life.” Along with that are seven other assets that speak directly to quality relationship with other youth and adults that allow for these conversations and questions to happen. All of the assets work together to create an environment for young people to express their doubt and acknowledge their fear. From there they can be caught up and claimed and sent through the work of the Spirit.

The answers to the girl’s questions are not easy. Those answers probably won’t be found right away. But the ground that those questions are planted in is nothing less than Holy Ground.  That’s where I want to be working.

Kristen Baltrum serves with students in Longmont, CO.

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.

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.

LIFE TEAMS Part TWO……………………Jerry Watts

We started our LIFE TEAMS by recruiting current & former confirmation, mission trip, and Sunday School teachers to agree to join the Life Team that already exists (i.e. parents,  godparents, grandparents, confirmation mentors, etc) in a youth’s life as intentional cheerleader in the faith on behalf of the congregation.  We centered our ministry around these informal relationships that would begin by praying for youth, being their facebook friend, going to their school events, writing a card in the mail, or just saying hello at church a couple times of month.

I provide open-ended conversation starters centered around the characteristics of mature faith.  Our hope was to give the LIFE TEAM members a greater comfort factor in the life of their relationship with the teen to include conversations about faith along with their regular lives.

But, we found that these relationships needed additional relational capital so that youth didn’t think of these folks as one 9th grader called them “faith stalkers.”  Many of the initial pairings failed because we weren’t able to nurture authentic relationships, we didn’t give up we just knew we needed to invest more time.

So this year, we asked our 9th grade students to have three of these Wendy’s get-togethers as a preparation for their upcoming confirmation.  From just those few get-togethers we are starting to see relationships nurtured, faith conversations emerging, and lives walking alongside one another in Christ.  There are more challenges and joys to share, and I’ll do that in coming weeks, but we have begun the process of resetting our sites.

Jerry Watts serves as a youth minister in Plano Tx.  He’s been at it for about 15 years, depending on what you count. You can catch him blogging about all things youth ministry at