November 19, 2009

Thoughts on Effective Youth Ministry

Written By Cary Schmidt

A frequent question: What are some keys for effective youth ministry? While I’m certainly not the authority, here are a few thoughts that I’ve seen the Lord bless (not listed in any particular order)…

A Strong Local Church—Jesus died for the church. It is His divine authorized institution for His work on earth. A youth group should not be a stand alone entity, but an integral part of a larger body—a local church. The youth group should support and mirror the church program, and the teens should have a good relationship with their pastor. (Ephesians 5:25)

Solid Bible Teaching—Bottom line, through the ministry of the church, we are to teach the Bible and persuade young people to live biblically for the rest of their lives. This is essential—social events are not. Give quality time to preparing and teaching practical, Bible lessons—the kind that help them understand truth and embrace it. I’ve written a longer article about this point called The Greatest Student Ministry Strategy. Also, the article about How to Lose Attention would tie in. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

One-on-One Time and Personal Ministry—Relationships are vital, and authentic ministry happens up close. I can’t persuade or influence someone that I’m not in “good standing” with—the Bible word is favor. Youth ministry happens as much one-on-one as with a group. Though our group has plenty of “group time,” our one-on-one relationships with the students create the platform for group ministry. Much of our “youth ministry time” is spent taking kids to lunch, out soulwinning, having smaller groups to our home, writing them letters, and generally trying to love and encourage each one personally. (1 Thessalonians 2:11)

Ministry and Outreach—It’s vital to allow and compel the teens to serve the Lord and others. Involving them in a soulwinning program, service opportunities, music opportunities, etc. is huge. The strongest, most mature, and joyful Christian teens I know are those that sing, serve, soul-win, and give. They are living their faith, and their commitment to Christ is real! The more you can encourage young people to live and express their faith through service, the stronger their faith will become. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Longevity and Patience—A lot of people just don’t stay at youth ministry very long—especially not in one place. It takes a few years to figure things out and another few for people to begin trusting you. That’s not to say you don’t accomplish anything in those years, just that the longer you stay with it, the more effective you will be and the greater the fruit. The best fruit in youth ministry happens as you literally watch families grow up—serving them year after year. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)

Family/Parent Focus—This one is HUGE! Effective youth ministry doesn’t merely focus on teens. We spend as much time counseling and ministering with parents as with teens. Regular teen-parent meetings are essential. Focus on reaching and ministering to the whole family. Help develop the parents as well as the teens. Teens need their parents a lot more than they need youth workers. So anything we can do to help them have a better relationship with parents, and to help the parents to live authentic Christian lives is going to bear greater fruit. (Malachi 4:6)

God’s Wisdom and Power—Obviously, this one goes without saying. Ultimately, anything good that comes from our efforts is due to the Lord using us in spite of ourselves. He blesses the principles of His Word and He delights in those who submit to His authority and His truth. We don’t need to reinvent anything—we just need to teach, preach, and practice God’s Word, anticipating that His power will do the real work. The mystery of changed lives is not in trendy new methods—it’s in the moving of God’s Holy Spirit. (Zechariah 4:6)

Lots and Lots of Patient Hope—A big part of youth ministry is just refusing to lose hope! There are far more blessings than disappointments, more victories than defeats, more winning than losing, and more ups than downs—but the devil is relentless in trying to make you feel like you’re a failure. Six years in the youth group does not make a fully mature Christian. It can help, but building a strong faith requires more than a youth group. And don’t forget free will! That was God’s idea, and everybody has one. No matter what you do, at the end of the day, people still make their own choices before the Lord. But never stop hoping and praying for those you love to become who Christ desires them to be!

Have you noticed that the emerging church movement—the seeker-sensitive movement—is constantly trying to reinvent church? Well, truthfully, God’s model doesn’t need to be reinvented. It still works very well! Effective youth ministry isn’t about making God fit into cultural trends and fads. It’s about faithfully obeying the timeless principles of His Word.

What are some other “keys to youth ministry”? It’s your turn to comment now…