week two: Choosing your type of Ministry
- Discuss different types of youth ministries and the dynamics of each of them.
- Encourage you to prayerfully consider your gifts and the church you are serving in order to look at what type of ministry will best suit the needs of the teens in your church.
Week one of this course discussed why youth ministry matters so much these days. This week we are going to look at the different types of youth ministries you can form. However, before we get into these, we need to cover exactly what is youth ministry.
WHAT IS YOUTH MINISTRY?
Youth ministry is about teen discipleship, which is coming alongside the teens God has put in your life, equipping them with God's Word, supporting them with your love and encouragement, and living a life that models your words. The most important youth ministry happens every day in the home where parents disciple their teens. This is why Chosen Gen is all about equipping and encouraging parents so they can be more effective in this role. However, this course focuses on the type of youth ministry that happens outside this parent/teen relationship, specifically looking at how the church can serve as a supporting role.
church-led youth ministries
The role of the church
As stated above, parents play the most important role in discipling teens. However, this doesn't mean there isn't a need for churches to have teen ministries. Church-led youth ministries serve a valuable supporting role and offer many unique blessings to teens:
- They offer a place where teens can come together and see they are not alone in their love for God and their struggles to live in a world that rejects God and the Bible.
- They provide a safe and supportive environment where teens feel comfortable discussing certain topics that might be tough to address with their parents.
- They serve as another opportunity for teens to be encouraged and equipped in their faith by passionate God-fearing men and women joyfully living Biblical lives.
- They give teens that aren't being discipled at home the opportunity to be taught God's Word and mentored by a Christian.
Evaluate what your church is currently doing
Is there an existing youth ministry at my church?
If the answer is yes, then how can you assist and encourage this existing ministry? If your pastor is leading this right now, chances are he has a full plate of responsibilities and would love some help. Don't hesitate to tell your pastor or youth worker that you have a desire to help and ask them for specific ways to get involved. Also, consider what gifts, resources, and passions you have that God could use to bless the discipling efforts taking place in your church. Finally, pray for the teens in your church and even consider putting together a prayer team that would commit to praying for your church's youth ministry on a regular basis. There is no wrong way to get involved! Pray and let God move you in the right direction.
If the answer is no, what role is God calling you to take in starting a teen ministry? An important first step is to discuss with your pastor if the church is open to getting one started. Then, prayerfully consider how God is leading you to get involved.
Note: Many people get scared away from working with the teens in their church because they think that they have to be hip and trendy, not to mention funny, outgoing and young. But that is far from the truth. What makes a good youth leader is someone who is passionately in love with their Lord and cares about the faith lives of the teens. They need to be wiling to work hard, love in kindness and in truth, and invest in the lives of the teens they want to impact. If you have a heart for reaching the teens with the truth of the Bible, then God can most certainly use you!
Consider your church's specific needs
How big is your church? What type of meeting place does it have? How many teens are members at your church?
These questions are important because they can help you decide the most effective and impactful way to meet as a group. For example, if you live in rural Minnesota and there are only 15 teens in your congregation, meeting in a large gym or classroom may feel uncomfortable and cold. However, if your church has the likelihood of 25-30 teens attending weekly Bible study, a home group may feel crammed and limit the activities you can do as a group.
What is the goal of this ministry?
One common pitfall of youth ministries is the emphasis on putting together large social gatherings for teens. In our desire to show them that the church can also be fun, we plan out our youth calendar around bowling events, baseball games, and dodge ball tournaments. However, teens don't need more social gatherings, in fact they are usually involved in so many extracurricular activities that they are often burned out and too busy to attend church events. If your goal is fellowship and skims over spiritual growth, you may attract teens for an event or activity, but rarely does it equip them to stand in their faith as they face imminent challenges to their walk with Christ throughout their high school and college years.
What sets a youth ministry apart is the ability to offer a place for teens to come and enjoy Christian fellowship, but also be mentored, challenged and equipped in their faith. When they are fed God's Word in a safe, fun and loving environment, that is when youth ministries start offering something the world cannot.
Common Models for Youth Ministries
Often we think of youth groups as large numbers of teens meeting in a room at a church. While this can be a great way to meet, it is definitely not the only way. Here are some models of how your youth ministry can look:
The church setting:
This is what most people picture when thinking of a youth group. Imagine 15 teens hanging out in a large room filled with old couches, pool tables and a TV. You meet weekly for a Bible study and fellowship. This often includes food, music, games and God’s Word. This meeting style provides opportunities for the teens to join fun, group oriented fellowship. It can help them see that they are part of a group of believers and give them a place of belonging and acceptance during the turbulent teen years. Some downsides to these types of meetings is that large numbers of teens can make it difficult to connect with them one on one. If this type of group works best for you and your church, we highly suggest scheduling a 30 minute fellowship time either before or after Bible study to give you time to build relationships with the teens.
The small group home study:
This type of gathering allows for smaller groups to meet in a more intimate, less formal setting. We’ve found that this setting can create a fun and comfortable environment for the teens to open up in. The teens get to know more of who you are by coming into your home and you get the joy of hosting them and using your home as a tool for ministry. Some benefits of this setting are that smaller groups often allow for more opportunities to develop meaningful relationships with the teens, and teens may participate more because they feel safer in a smaller group. One thing to remember if you choose to have a small home study is that there should ALWAYS be at least two leaders present at a home, including both a male and female.
The high school setting:
There is a constant battle for the teens’ time. Being able to set up a meeting at their school during the week can provide an awesome opportunity to take “getting a ride” and “making time” non-issues. It can also be an amazing opportunity to impact the entire school. Make sure to contact your school and work with them to organize and set this up.
no two youth ministries look the same
A youth ministry is always changing because the teens coming to it are always changing. What worked for your group last year may completely flop the very next year. It's okay to learn as you go. Don't get too set at doing it one particular way or another. Be attentive to the dynamic of your group and willing to adapt and change as your group does. The key to remember is God's Word is the foundation and the focus of your ministry. If it's all about the leaders, the teens will leave if the leaders change. If it's all about the games, the teens drop off if the games get boring. However, if your ministry is a place where they are spiritually fed and nourished week after week, they will continue to come back despite the highs and lows of the year.
Continue to week two of this course: Forming a Leadership Team