Posts Tagged ‘ Youth Spiritual Development ’

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…..to 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.

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.

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.

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- www.lifelongfaith.com, 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.