“Kids have better things to do than come to a big event,” youth minister Prentice Park commented. “Kids are looking for something deeper, more meaningful, and they’re not going to get that at a big event.” Jeremy Zach, also a youth pastor, echoed Park’s point: “In our setting, youth ministry can’t be event-based because we don’t have the budget or the space.”
Jeremy and Prentice serve neighboring churches in the Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel communities of southern California. Both churches average about 300 in worship. Youth ministry in smaller churches like theirs relies on building personal relationships and creating space for conversations about Jesus. Reaching an always-on, technology-native generation means more than serving pimento cheese sandwiches at an after-church fellowship. Teens today deal with complex issues of identity, meaning, and the need to belong. Smaller churches can engage teenagers effectively without having to produce big events requiring huge budgets.
During an interview, Park and Zach identified five keys to reaching and keeping teenagers engaged in ministry:
1. Build relationships. While this doesn’t sound like new advice, both Park and Zach see relationships with teens as the number one key to effective youth ministry. “Kids don’t need more ‘hello’ friends,” Park noted. Building relationships is really about building trust between adult leaders and youth group members.
2. Share ministry. Zach suggested a ratio of one adult leader for every eight teens when building a youth ministry. “Students need to see adults living out their faith,” Zach said. Having a 1-to-8 adult-to-teen ratio allows adults to connect with clusters of kids. Youth ministry becomes a “network of networks” as adult sponsors get to know teenagers both individually and within their circle of friends.
3. Create safe space. Both Park and Zach hold about half their youth meetings away from the church campus so that
Continue reading “5 Keys to Transformational Youth Ministry”
Our youth ministry took another blow this week. Word trickled back to me that one of our families with young teens has found another church “where there are more kids.” I’ve been here 4 years this month, and this is at least the fourth time this has happened. We have never had more than a half-dozen kids at any one time, and they didn’t all come at the same time, so we’re struggling with how a small church creates a youth ministry.
I don’t blame parents with teens for wanting their kids to be in a dynamic youth group. Debbie and I met at our church youth group when we were young teens. We didn’t attend a huge church, but our youth group had about 20-25 regulars. Several high school were represented in the group, so church was a place where we saw kids we didn’t see at school. Out of our youth group several of us made commitments to full-time vocational ministry. So, I understand the importance and impact of youth ministry on the lives of kids.
One of the realities of small church is you can’t be all things to all people. There are some needs we can’t meet. Right now, youth ministry is one of those. But, we don’t quit trying. This Sunday we honor our high school graduates — both of them. But, for the two kids graduating, this is a big deal to them, and we’re delighted to share in this significant milestone.
While we can’t compete with larger churches, we can still care for the families and kids we have. That’s our role right now, as we dream of ways to reach families with teens in the future. How about your youth ministry? Do you face the same challenges, and if so, how are you addressing them? I’m sure many small-church pastors and leaders would like to hear your story.
I just returned from a meeting of community leaders and agencies that work with children and youth in our community. About 18 people were there including the superintendents of both the city and county schools, and representatives from Social Services, Community Action, Habitat for Humanity, our local community college, Boys and Girls Club leadership, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and others.
The chairperson noted those in attendance, and commented. “I also invited several local pastors, but I see none of them here.” (I was invited as representative of the new community center in our town.)
My question is — “Where were the pastors?” Why wouldn’t a pastor consider a joint meeting of every child advocacy group in our area a good thing to attend? I know it’s Holy Week, but I made time to attend with more than a week’s notice, so I’m sure others could have also. If we as pastors are not willing to sit at the table with others in our community to solve our common problems and share a common vision, how will we win a world?
What do you think? Would you attend a meeting like this? If not, why not? Maybe there’s something I’m missing here, and if so, I’d like to know what it is.
At CES in Las Vegas today, Panasonic showed off their 150″ plasma TV — just in time for the Super Bowl! But, before you rush out to Circuit City, apparently there’s only one right now. Here are some more fascinating tidbits:
For those into live blogging conferences, Kevin Kelly has a link to a free article
for newbie or wannabe live conference bloggers.
Want a free 1500+ page, beautifully illustrated physics book? Here.
7. Remember the Bob Dylan rule: it’s not just a record, it’s a movement.
Bob and his handlers have a long track record of finding movements. Anti-war movements, sure, but also rock movies, the Grateful Dead, SACDs, Christian rock and Apple fanboys. What Bob has done (and I think he’s done it sincerely, not as a calculated maneuver) is seek out groups that want to be connected and he works to become the connecting the point.
By being open to choices of format, to points of view, to moments in time, Bob Dylan never said, “I make vinyl records that cost money to listen to.” He understands at some level that music is often the soundtrack for something else.
I think the same thing can be true for chefs and churches and charities and politicians and makers of medical devices. People pay a premium for a story, every time.
Now, if only we had a good story…..
I have about 50 blogs on my feedreader at a time. Half of them are blogs reflecting popular culture. Hey, I’m trying to keep up. So, I’m reading Ruby Pseudo from the UK and she describes herself this way —
“Ruby Pseudo is a lucky girl that works with a network of young minds across the country to find out what they want, wish for and need. It’s also stuff they hate, have and haven’t.”
Bingo. Ruby has the most incredible post from a 17-yr old guy about what he wants brands to be to him. Not which brands he wants, but how he wants brands to behave in relationship to him.
[New idea: we have a relationship with our brands like, he says, we have a relationship with our friends.] Here’s a clip —
- I’m the kind of person that likes brands to be one step ahead of me and have the things I need before I need them.
- I like to have the freedom to use them as and when I please and not be pestered when I’m not using it. (If they’re good they will be used again)
- I like them at my fingertips but not in my way.
- What I’m doing has to look good, be easy to accomplish but not simple. Involves skill but not time consuming.
- My dress sense is like my uniform, I need to look good but not smart, has to match but not be the same.
- I like to follow the trends but be different, look like everyone else but stand out. Be the same but unique.
- Read the whole post here.
Take this peephole into the world of young adults and teens, and translate it into church applications.
Then for an insider (of the church, that is) perspective on the same issue, read They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball, and unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons of Barna, and you’ve got some real insight into how we should be dealing with older teens and young adults.