Posts Tagged ‘ Youth Ministry Shifts ’

EYM and D6 …………………………………………………..Nancy Going

If the D6 conference is not on your radar screen, watch for it next year. D6 stands for Deuteronomy 6.  This year’s D6 took place in Dallas, September 15-17, 2010, and was sponsored by Randall House.

Here’s how D6 connects with the EYM study results.  While the EYM study doesn’t give a lot of information about the faith formation that takes place in the homes of the students in these exemplary congregations, it does tell the story of churches who made notable strides in supporting parents in their role as the primary shapers of the faith of their children.  The parents reported that they got it, and it helped.

The conference not only did a great job of holding that focused support as a God-given pattern, but providing lots of step-by-step how-to’s related to the hard work of changing how churches think about what we do.  More than just naming it family ministry, or handing out obligatory family devotions for people to throw away on the way home, the conference worked hard to find leaders who were bit by bit changing the cultures of their churches, and asked them to talk about the new support systems for parents that they are putting in place for faith formation to happen outside the walls of the church and instead in cars and family rooms.

Most profound, however was the way that Doug Field’s(founder of Simply Youth Ministry) talk at the conference challenged leaders to LEAD with this commitment themselves.  To live a spirituality of God’s activity in the every day of family life, and not just at church… be the kind of spiritual leaders in their own families who put attention to the spiritual formation of their children before the next event at church.  We all know that’s a part of the bigger picture here.  He named it.

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.  The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry book comes out this week.  Order yours here.


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.

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.

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.

EYM SHIFTS…………………………………….John Roberto

The Exemplary Youth Ministry Study results indicate that churches seeking to develop an effective formation focus make three distinctive shifts.


They emphasize personal and community transformation understanding that, though programs are a necessary dimension of congregational life, they are a means toward an end and not the end itself. Christian formation is about turning believers into disciples of Jesus Christ, so that we are formed in Christ, both personally and as a community.

Which of your programs are doing that?  How do you know?  How could you shift your programs to focus on formation?


They emphasize a holistic head, heart and hand approach to formation. Information or knowledge alone will not support the kind of radical transformation we are seeking. Christian formation includes the goal of increasing our knowledge of Scripture, for example, but it is not limited to that. It is about whole-person learning. It is about knowing, being, and doing.

In what ministries are you helping young people be and do as well as know?  How do you know?


They emphasize an integrated faith, understanding that Christian formation is not about accomplishing a series of tasks, nor does it happen only in the church building. It happens everywhere…at home, at school, at work, and throughout our lives. Growing together toward wholeness in Christ requires that we be “border crossers” when it comes to generational, class, gender, home/church, work/church, clergy/lay, and racial, cultural and ethnic boundaries.

What evidences of “border crossings” are you seeing at your church?  Where can you develop another?

John Roberto is the Executive Director of LifelongFaith Associates-, and was the Roman Catholic member of the original Exemplary Youth Ministry Study Leadership Team.