Posts Tagged ‘ youth adult mentoring ’

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.

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.

LIFE TEAMS Part III………………………….Jerry Watts

I thought I was just going to dinner with my wife and kids at the Chili’s by my house one night.  As the hostess seated us, we walked past a table, and there sat an adult and a student from our church—one of our Life Teams.  There they were, just having dinner, catching up, getting to know each other even better, doing life together.  I can’t tell you what an exciting moment that was for me.  It made all every ministry struggle that I’ve had around the shift from group to maturing Christian faith worth it.

They said that no one would follow through and do this, and there they were.  They also said that I’d never find enough adults, and in the first two years, God has  provided.

So now in year two of the vision we have paired 7th graders with life team members who agree to partner with them through high school (I’ll share about that recruiting task in another post) and nurture natural relationship building by moving our confirmation meeting across the street to Wendy’s once a month for one on one Life Team guided conversations over a frosty.  They share about their lives, they read a devotion together, pray together.  The weird factor is lessened for both the adult and the youth because they see a restaurant full of their friends doing the same thing.

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 http://reformthis.wordpress.com/

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 http://reformthis.wordpress.com/