Posts Tagged ‘ Spiritual Growth ’

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.


Participatory Faith………………………..Anita Smallin

Earlier this week, I was reminded of an article I read about the Facebook Generation.  In this article Gary Hamel lists 12 ideas that the Facebook Generation has towards the world.  (For the full article: It’s an interesting list to think about when we talk about youth ministry.  As I have been thinking this week, the idea of “Leaders serve rather than preside” keeps coming back to me.  All leaders need to be servant leaders.  Hamil says: “If we forget this, we may lose our followers.”

So what does this mean for youth ministry? I’d say he’s affirming what we know.  The EYM Study affirmed that youth leaders, mentors and parents are to model an honest and vibrant faith.  As the Facebook generation is participatory, we are to model a participatory faith, not a passive faith.  And what is that participatory faith?  It’s the faith of the empty nester who serves as a Sunday School teacher, the leaders of our soup kitchens, the folks who stick around after church and have genuine conversations with the lost in our midst.  Our leaders need to be active in living out their faith, not congregational wall flowers.  The whole church needs to show and model that participation in all aspects of our life, from worship to service to prayer; from our offering to our actions.  Our whole church community plays a role in modeling faith.

Anita Smallin is a youth leader in Baltimore, MD, and is fascinated by social media.  She’s training to run her first 5K this spring.

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.

The Dangers of the EYM: Fad, Fiction, or Future?…………………Jerry Watts

I was talking to a friend this week who wondered if all the hype about Exemplary Youth Ministry wasn’t just that.  He was not discounting all the good stuff we’ve been blogging about but he did wonder if we were just moving on to the next new thing, the latest fad, the buzz in youth ministry these days.  He wondered if we remembered that discipleship based on faith markers or what the Bible calls the fruit of the Spirit has already been around for a long time.  He’s got a good point.

And that is just the point.  The Exemplary Youth Ministry study found that these  121 congregations had been able to either create a youth ministry of discipleship or to use programs that focus ministry entirely on discipleship.  So much of youth ministry in the last thirty years has been developed around attraction, rather than fruit.

In our weakness we might even use the EYM study as an excuse for why our ministries are failing instead of a measuring stick to help us be transformed.If we regulate the Exemplary youth ministry study to the latest trend in ministry then we forget the power of the Spirit who forms faith and the Scriptures which give us our ultimate list or markers to be accountable to.  That’s really not new at all, is it?

Jerry Watts is a seventeen year youth ministry veteran. He currently serves in Plano Texas.

Baby Food?…………………………..Wes Black

Are we serving baby food?

Can you remember your first years away from home when you had to make your own decisions, wash your own clothes, balance your checkbook, and make a ton of other mistakes before you learned how to grow up? Or, was that just me?

I have a hunch a lot of youth are graduating from our ministries and they still have a lot to learn about living their faith on their own. In many ways they are still spiritual babies, like Paul mentioned in 1 Cor. 3:2a, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” (NIV)

Could it be that we are feeding our youth spiritual baby food instead of solid food in our ministries?

I wonder how many youth leaders are content if they have a core of youth who simply attend church or youth group often.

I wonder how many youth leaders are content if they have a growing number of youth and they can show that attendance is larger than last year.

I wonder how many youth leaders are content if the calendar is full of activities.

The Exemplary Youth Ministry study discovered some things that congregations were doing that produced more mature Christian youth. The 44 assets emerging from that study show that it’s not about building an exciting, attention-grabbing youth group. It’s about building a youth ministry with the goal of producing more mature Christian youth.

Let’s stop feeding them baby food!

Wes Black is professor of student ministry and associate dean for the PhD Program in the School of Church and Family Ministry, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX, and a member of the original EYM leadership team.