Youth Ministry 101

The Reverend Jacqui Foxall facilitated the workshop, Youth Ministry 101 at Canada Youth 2018. It began with some basic questions: Who are You? What is your context? and What are you hoping to learn today?

The following are some notes from the session

Challenges Facing Youth Leaders & Congregations

Over the next few hours, she talked about some of the challenges facing youth leaders and churches today:

  1. We tend to entertain youth more than anything else
  2. Youth may be confirmed, but 48% of those confirmed leave the church aftertwards
  3. Youth leaders tend to burn out. The average length of time in a church is 18 months!
  4. Congregations need to remember that youth ministry is the church's ministry, not just the youth leader's!
  5. Youth ministry is not an event but a process. We want people to be involved in the life of the church throughout their whole lives.

Developing a System Supporting Youth Ministry

Any system supporting youth ministry requires two basic components: architecture and atmosphere.

Imagine that building your youth group is like building a home. You know what kind of home you want to build; your architectural plans and permits to actually building something; and after the structure has been built, you need to decorate it. Or think of it as:

The Blue Print
- Vision/Mission statement
- 3-year goal
- Clear statement of values
- Control Documents (which every youth leader should have):
    - Youth directory
    - 12-month planning calendar
    - Org chart and job descriptions for each volunteer
    - Recruiting needs and lists

Concrete & Other Building Blocks
- Do you know your youth? How well do you know them?
- Do you know your values? Do you know theirs?

Wallpaper & Decorations
- Curriculum

Sample Mission Statement

The sample mission statement includes the vision of what you are trying to accomplish; identifies a number of long-term goals and benchmarks against which you can measure your progress; and clearly states your values.

Everything needs to be filtered through that statement. For example, if your youth are doing something at a bazaar, ask:
- Why?
- What is the goal?
- How does this activity fit into that vision/mmission statement?

Developing Sustainable Youth Ministry

It doesn't matter how successful you are with your youth group, everything has a life cycle. Your program will peak somewhere along the line and then start to decline.

Failure and success are not isolated incidents - they are part of a life cycle - a trajectory. What you need to do is recognize that your group has just about reached its peak before it actually does and before decline sets in so that you can make the decision to re-vision your ministry and start it onto a new trajectory.

Remember - re-visioning youth ministry is not the responsibility of the Youth Leader but of the whole Congregation (or their representatives - e.g., the Session).

The "Numbers" Game

According to Wayne Rice, We count people because people count.

The fact is that youth go where the numbers are. A room with nobody there is far less inviting than a room packed with friends and energy.

At the same time, we need to remember that a BIGGER youth ministry IS NOT a BETTER youth ministry.

It is important to get some numbers, but focusing too much on numbers can actually distract us from youth ministry - as the picture demonstrates.

People need to realize that it is impossible for a single individual to know "everyone" equally well. Research shows that we tend to know only 3 people well. This is why it is important to have more than one person involved in youth ministry. If you have 18 youth, then you need 6 others involved.

Final Words of Advice

  • Insist that your congregation support and train you: Ask - how do I become a better leader - train me - mentor me...
  • Chance your focus from programs to relationships
  • Develop a web of relationships
  • Make the curriculum fit in with your values - don't try to fit your values into the curriculum.

Remember: You are doing God's work, and God wants to support you in the ministry he has given you. Don't forget to pray - don't forget to turn to God for help.