In prior weeks we have focused on the first nine principles: Youthwork is- Family Based, Congregational, Relational, Discipling, Missional, Evangelistic, Holistic, Bible Based, Experiential. This week we move onto number ten:
Principle #10 – Youthwork is Youth-led
Youthwork is ALWAYS best when it is Youth-led!
What does Youth-led Youth Ministry look like? Let’s start with what keeps Youth Ministry from being Sustainable when it is not Youth-led.
1) Adults (parents) deciding what Youth need with little/no input from Youth leads to declining support for the ministry from the Youth themselves and also from their Families and maybe even the Finance Committee. Most parents don’t want to “force” their Youth to go to Church when they don’t want to. They want that to be a free-will choice for their young person.
2) Adult-led Youth Ministry tends to be more about prevention than about meeting Youth where they are. Most studies clearly show that the best way to help Youth have positive journeys through adolescence is to empower them to focus on the positive gifts and graces that they are equipped with by God. Another way to say this is that if we spend our time on the things we should be doing there will be little time to do things we should not be doing (this is a valuable life skill for adults as well as adolescents).
3) Adults are often focused on the last generation’s issues (they are still working out their own issues) rather than the current generation’s needs. This is an age-old conflict between generations but when it plays out in a Youth Group is keeps the Ministry from being sustainable.
What steps can we take to make Youthwork Youth-led?
1) Seek first to understand Youth before trying to make Youth understand you.
2) Empower Youth to control their ministry budgets, their building space, their own ministry agendas, calendars, etc.
3) Encourage Youth to try a number of different things even though they may fail some of the time. Many more valuable life-lessons are learned through failure than through manipulated successes.
4) Support Youth unconditionally when they fail to achieve their goals. We all make mistakes and we all fail. It is not a problem specific to any age group.
5) Invite a Youth to do what you normally do and then coach them and support them as they attempt to do it.
What if a Youth was asked to come teach an adult Sunday school class in your church about the issues they face daily? What if you invited some of your Youth to serve on various church committees? What if you found various adults to make a covenant to pray WITH a Youth daily for the next 21 days? What if various adults in your church volunteered to serve food at Youth Group on a regular basis just to build relationships with Youth over time? What if adults also were invited to sit with Youth in Church (not to get them to stop texting) and then had the chance to share for a minute or two how worship transformed them?
These items may seem small or simple but they are the first steps toward building a Church culture of Youth-led Youth Ministry. What will YOU do?
Peace and Grace,
Charles W. Harrison