Posts Tagged ‘ Youth Ministry ’

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.

Adult Youth Workers in the Exemplary Congregations

Today’s we’re sharing some of the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study results.  You can find all of the original study documents at

The commitment of the adult youth workers in these congregations is noted by pastors in their responses to the open-ended questions and in what the adult workers report about themselves. Their answers to items on the survey evidence:

  • A Centrality of Faith
  • Sense of Social Responsibility

that are well above average. These are adult Christians for whom faith is a compass for the attitudes and decisions of their lives; the beliefs and values behind these attitudes and decisions result in active regard for their “neighbor.”

With respect to the effectiveness of the youth and family ministries in their congregations, these greatly involved congregational adults reflect enthusiastic opinions. Three measures that reflect what their congregation is doing draw scores that rank well above previous national samples of adult youth workers:

  • Effectiveness of Parental Education
  • Training of Adult Youth Workers, and
  • Youth Ministry Characteristics.

These adult youth workers are especially pleased with their congregation’s “culture” as reflected in the following dimensions of their church’s life and ministry:

  • Welcoming Atmosphere
  • Pastor’s Support of Christian Education and Youth Ministry
  • Congregation Makes Me Think
  • Importance of This church to Me
  • Congregation’s Social Interaction

Clearly, those persons closest to young people in these exemplary congregations have high regard for what is being done in their congregations not only in the lives of youth, but in their lives and the lives of other adults as well.

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.

Dispelling Cultural Myths……………………………….Tim Coltvet

In Disconnected: Parenting Teens in a MySpace World, Chap and Dee Clark take on a popular cultural myth that, sadly, most of us in youth ministry buy hook, line, and sinker.  Simply, that teenage youth do not want to spend time with their parents.  We often run into the smokescreen when recruitment for small groups comes around.  We think, “I bet Jimmy or Janie’s mom/dad would be a great small group leader.”  But, after planting the seed, we soon get the parent’s somewhat dejected response, “Jimmy/Janie doesn’t want me to be their small group leader, sorry.”  All too often, we give up with their response.

Not so fast!  The EYM assets, particularly Asset 44, Fosters Parent-Youth Relationships: offers parent- youth activities that strengthen parent-youth relationships parallels Chap’s research, and give strong grounds for us to engage that dejected parent in further conversation.  Congregations that are fostering a mature Christian faith are somehow finding ways to navigate around and/or through the smokescreen separating parents and youth in their respective faith journeys.

Take, for example, Rochester Covenant church in Rochester, Minnesota.  This congregation finds vibrant life in their senior high ministry through the place they meet, their homes.  Parents are regularly involved in hosting and welcoming senior high students into their homes for discipleship and fellowship as Christian people.  One might think that this would be a barrier to youth involvement.  Quite to the contrary, an authentic expression of faith emerges as parent and youth make their way in their respective faith journeys.  Kenda Creasy Dean’s statement at Luther Seminary’s First/Third Event becomes the goal:

The best way to stimulate spiritual health in a congregation is to invest in the spiritual growth of young people.  The best way to stimulate spiritual health in young people is to invest in the spiritual growth of their parents.”

Let’s let Jesus move youth ministry beyond the cultural myths.

Rev. Tim Coltvet starting cutting his teeth in youth ministry about fifteen years ago.  He currently coordinates contextual learning and coaching at Luther Seminary’s Center for Children Youth, and Family Ministry.