Posts Tagged ‘ Youth Ministry Leadership ’

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.


The P Word………….Michael Best

Youth workers are known for being fun and spontaneous.  The reason most of us started in youth ministry was because of our love and passion for teenagers.  Nearly all of us would rather hang out at Starbucks with students than sit in an office. But in the midst of all the busy day to day activity in ministry, when is the last time you really thought ahead?

Planning is not cutting edge.  Planning is often not fun.  Planning is not cool.  But planning is an important part of an effective youth ministry.  Assets 38 and 39 of the EYM study show that youth ministries need to use many approaches and be organized well.  These two assets demand planning.

What if instead of thinking about what to teach this weekend or this summer, you planned a four to six year strategy of teaching?  What if instead of going to the beach with some students you planned several strategic service opportunities for them?  What if your planning was based on the characteristics of maturing Chrisitan faith?

We need more than a passion for students to grow in Christ, we need a plan that will give them opportunities to grow.
So what about you?  Where are you in your planning of teaching topics, of missions opportunities, of creative events?

Michael Best is a first time EYM Blogger.   Welcome Michael!   He has been serving in youth ministry for over three years. He lives and ministers in Chicago, IL.

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.

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.

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.

Uses Many Approaches……………………….Nancy Going

What is unique about the life of people in the place where you live?  What are the distinctive ministry needs where church and youth and youth ministry can and should dig in?

That question grows out of one of the key learnings from the Exemplary Youth ministry study.   Asset  38:  “Uses Many Approaches: intentionally, creatively employs multiple activities appropriate to the ministry’s mission and context.”

This asset means that in a church in rural Nebraska, the high school students regularly put on the VBS for smaller children.  The reality is that if they had not organized and made it happen, their church would not have had a VBS.  The faith of those high school students grew measurably in the process.

In suburban Dallas, a youth ministry that engages parents in multiple significant ways, providing both parental support, and utilizing lots of  parental volunteers in the ministry helped both youth and parents connect to their faith and to the ministry of the larger church.

Instead of thinking that their program should look a certain way because of that program’s success at another church, these churches looked at and identified what the needs are in their church and community, and structured their ministry around those needs.

Gather some people who can help you see, if you need it.  Imagine where this asset could take you………

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.