The End of Youth Ministry

The End of Youth MinistryOK I know that sounds a little dramatic.  Let me start Micro and move towards Meta.  I also really want your input, so this is a conversation starter.  Here it goes:

Well for about two weeks now I have become the acting Children’s Ministry Director at the Church where I am doing Interim Youth Ministry. They are doing some budget reallocations for staffing.  First off let me admit I know next to nothing about Children’s Ministry.  Or I should say, I have a lot of opinions about Children’s Ministry, most of which I imagine are badly out of alignment with reality.

Are you a Children’s Minister who recently was asked to “expand” your job to also be the Youth Minister in the midst of church staff budget cuts?  Are you a Youth Director that recently took on the Children’s Department in your job description?  Are any of you in charge of BOTH Children and Youth and now have been asked to take on an additional ministry area?

So, I always had this opinion that the difference between Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry was more or less rules and structure.  Obviously developmental age differences also, but I mean philosophically different otherwise.  Children’s Ministers were much more professional than a Youth Minister like me.  They had charts and databases and lot of volunteers.  There were clear rules that all must follow.  These rules had no grey area.  Youth Ministers like me tried to break rules or eliminate them to give Youth room for “creativity” and “growth” and frankly to justify me wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap to work.  Parents generally liked Children’s Ministers and Parents were generally worried about Youth Ministers because of things like the marshmallow slip and slide and the mystery trip (which I think was invented by an early Youthworker who just could not plan a trip with any details).

OK, so my opinions about most of this have been way off.  Many Youth Ministers are highly organized.  Some Children’s Ministers actually “wing-it” each week to teach Sunday school.  (At least try to “creatively imagine” this for the sake of the article please.)

When I started in Youth Ministry, there were a ton of well-trained folks doing full time Youth Ministry.  Many Youthworkers were still volunteers, but we had these Seminary trained clergy doing Youthwork, planning camps, leading group mission trips, etc.  We had “go to” people who were experts at the Conference Office and at area churches.

Now, three decades later, we have put event managers in place at the Conference level and these good folks have little training or local church experience to help in adolescent faith formation.  Similar things have happened on the Conference level around the country with Children’s Ministry.  Camps suffer.  Events suffer.  The “go to” expert has gone bye bye.  So we search the internet for the best “help” we can latch onto.

This has now trickled done to the local church.  We just need somebody to keep the calendar organized, the programs running, the trips planned, and the parents happy and out of the Senior Pastor’s office.  We need budgets maintained and we need Safe Sanctuaries implemented.  And now because of growing debt and shrinking staff budgets, we need one person to cover Children and Youth.  Or maybe go back to getting volunteers to do it all the way ministry happens in most churches.

Don’t get me wrong, most of these things are important to vital ministry with Children and Youth.  But it seems like an era has come to an end.  Who resources the volunteer?  Who supports the overworked Children/Youth/Young Adult/Family Life/Outrach Director who also needs to develop the Power Point for this week’s comtemporary service because only this uniquely qualified staffer has that skill set?

What happened to the well-trained Christian Educator who knows about developmental needs of toddlers through high school seniors?  What about Faith Formation as opposed to event preparation?

I recently took my confirmands to an all conference rally designed just for them.  I must say it was well-planned and very FUN!  Some groups were led there by their Children’s Minister, some by their Youth Minister and we stood and waited together while our kids ate pizza, played in the gym, watch a video of a comedian, played some more on blow up outdoor game items, did some crafts and then sang some CCM songs they didn’t know and then listened to our Bishop ask them if they had ever been to Israel like he had as he gave a semi-motivational speech.  Now, nothing about this is completely wrong.  But I did have a common conversation with several Children’s and Youth Ministers: what faith formation is happening here?  What is the “hidden” curriculum in these large events?  Are we teaching something about what it means to follow Jesus that we DO NOT INTEND TO TEACH?

Is there something bigger going on?  In all of this push to have better and bigger metrics (because we have a perceived need to measure our success and failure) have we lost something that is actually Vital?  Have we ended Youth Ministry? Children’s Ministry?  Faith formation?  Have we slowly but surely stopped Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World?  All to reshape budgets to pay for more bricks and mortar so we can have better metrics on our dashboards so that we can…….

All the research says we are headed in the absolute wrong direction.  ALL of the research.  Youth’s theology is underdeveloped at best, it started in Children’s Ministry but is a direct result of the fact that their parent’s faith is equally underdeveloped.  The Bible teaches that when you are headed in the wrong direction, REPENT, and then head in the right direction.

So, do you find yourself doing both Children’s and Youth Ministry?  What do things look like in your context?  How does that feed into what is happening in the BIG Picture across the realm of all/most churches?

Am I wrong to worry?  Am I off track?  Has Satan confused me?  Or maybe Wall Street and Madison Avenue?  Too-Meta you say?  Is it?  I think I will REPENT now and head in a different direction.  Who is with me?  Let’s have a conversation.  We are better, together!

Peace and Grace,

Charles W. Harrison


  1. Nice job Charles! No I think you are right on track!! I am not doing Children’s Ministry but after a zillion years working with them I know exactly where you come from as well! What about Family Ministry? Is anyone serving as a Family Minister now with a Youth Director and Children’s Director under them and they work in collaboration together to lead the entire family in Loving others and making disciples?

    • Dead on. We care more about buildings and appearances than people. But, of course, the REAL church is brick and mortar. The congregation is just the means for paying for things. At least that is how my ex-church rolls.

      • Glenn & Gwen,

        Any thoughts about why we’ve spent more time on “bricks and mortar” than on people’s faith formation?

        My suspicion is that the fundraising is easier for something tangible like a building as opposed to faith formation which is as tangible as jello but jello that is still in powder form and not yet jelled.


  2. Hey Charles, that’s what I would call, “Speaking truth in love.” I don’t believe it is just a problem with Children and Youth Ministry.. Keep the faith… keep speaking truth in love.

  3. Glenn, Gwen, & David,

    Thank you so much! I feel less alone.

    So, if you were in charge for the next 30 years what steps would you be taking to address these issues?

    Glenn, say more about Family Ministry??? I think you are onto something there.


  4. I am not doing children’s ministry because I have ZERO gifts when it comes to children. I love them, I play with them, but I don’t know how to communicate with them. This is not the case when I am in youth ministry.

    Now, Glenn, if I had my way I would be the family minister at my church and have our children’s minister work under me. She is recently hired, with no church experience at all and trying to figure this thing out as she goes. She is AWESOME, but so very unsure of herself.

    Age level ministries are important because of the developmental needs of these ages. However, the entertainer children or youth ministry is still alive and well. In a class I took recently, we were assigned to read soul shaper, a Tony Jones book from 2003. In is he states “gone are the days of the entertainer youth worker”. That, my friends, is untrue.

    The thing that I think we all forget in this conversation is that each church has its own personality. For some, a person working both youth and children’s ministries works well. For some, volunteers, for others, part time, and still others full time. It is about understanding the culture of your community and your church, something I had to do like never before when I came to work for a new church start.

    The right direction is not programming at all. It is about relationship, and about time spent together and individually, seeking God’s will. As humans, however, we require programming because it sets boundaries and structure, and where structure is absent people perish…or something like that.

    I will work through my thoughts more and possibly blog about it, I’ll post the link here if I do!
    Thanks Charles!

    • Thanks Kelly! I like your hinting here. I was just thinking you had the beginnings of next week’s article! 🙂


    • I agree with Kelly. I think a lot of people who serve in children’s ministry (paid and volunteer) look at what is pulling children away from church (sports and passive entertainment) and try to make church more like those things. The thought is that if we can make church seem less like church and more like all of that other stuff that kids would choose church. It should be fun, fun, fun all of the time.

      These folks do not give children enough credit for identifying the difference between being entertained and having an authentic experience. Children want to be in relationship with others and value those relationships. Children seek opportunities to learn about God and to serve others.

      Too many parents treat church like the medicine that children need to swallow so that they (the parents) won’t feel guilty. And, those parents demand more than a spoonful of sugar to help it go down. Too much sugar dilutes the power of the message and everything we do seems empty and pointless.

  5. Right on, Charles! The direction that you are talking about (the wrong direction) is the way we are headed in every area of the church. Just as no one wants a trained Christian Educator who knows about developmental stages, no one wants a trained biblical scholar/ theologian who might could engage people in serious conversations about God, the universe and everything. At least, it seems that the “hierarchy” of the church is certainly not looking for that. The church – meaning the people in the pews/classrooms seem to want that. I think we need to return to our call to preach the gospel and maybe our Wesleyan roots to spread scriptural holiness over the land. I am not a very good event planner; but I do know how to engage in conversation about God and I do know how to help people think about their faith and their discipleship. Building faith, making disciples is long, slow, labor-intensive work, whether with children, youth or adults. But the product – mature disciples – is worth the process, no matter how long.

    When the powers that be started noticing the decline, they seemed to decide that our problem was that we were not fun enough, not relevant enough, not professional enough in our planning. Instead I think the problem was that we were not tending our own souls or the souls of those in our care. We were settling for teaching people to be good; we weren’t teaching people to follow Jesus. (I know that Kendra Casey Dean has a term for it – can’t remember what she calls it.)

    Anyway, that’s my two cents!
    Blessings and thanks for this blog. I read far more often that I respond!

    • Thank you Martha!

      I would covet a written article from you on this. Not to be pushy 🙂 But we are in agreement across the board I believe. But then, we probably knew that already.

      So, how do we fix it? If you were in charge what would you do?


    • Lane Kincannon

      My dear Friends at 1st Missouri, I am not a member of your Church, rather a member of 1st Methodist downtown. I also happen to be Austin Kincannon’s father. It grieves me intensely to read Charles’ thoughts and ya’ll responses. Your frustration is not unique to just your Church, it is systemic throughout all of our Conference Churches because of quite honestly lack of participation. I do not think that is a black eye on the staff or Clergy, but it remains what it is. Please listen to me for a moment…I am 58 and my wife and I have been hands on teachers from 3 years old through High School with our own children and others. There has always been a debate about Children’s Minister versus Youth Minister from a budget issue. Believe me, I was twice Chair of the Board of Trustees and full well know about the internal discussion of budget allocation. I also understand about the concept of “if you build it, then they will come”. It is heartbreaking and almost guaranteed to make the wrong decision with a certain audience. but what can you do with a $1,000,000.00 budget and receipts are $750,000.00. It is a given to back off building and grounds projects, the Seniors are “hands off”, the Youth are “hands off”…..hmmm, how can we recombine staff…It always happens that way. It is not unique to your Church or circumstance. In support of Charles…..your Trustees are not going to like this….let me tell all of you about Children Ministry…been there, done that and then again and again. The proof in the foundation is when they hit Confirmation Class. That is the slide from children into youth. Maybe we got lucky but it happened with all three of my children, seven years apart. Easily, every year half of our Confirmand Class knew the definition of “Covenant” and could get real close to saying the Nicene Creed and Affirmation of Faith. Do you have any idea what a leg up they had over the others? I can certainly affirm it right now and what a relief to the Confirmand Teachers. 90% of those same “trained kids” finished High School and one of them actually came back to be our Current Pastor. I hope you guys can pray about it and find peace with this….it is not an easy subject with budget constraints.
      Be Well – Lane M. Kincannon

  6. Kristen Perkins

    Charles, I think you are right on point. A lot of times we in the church get things pushed onto us and are expected to do all these different ministries without being well trained or having good resources to turn to. I am only over youth ministry at our church, but we have a programs director who does children, adult and older adults education. She is also responsible for Wednesday night suppers and a go to person for most church things. I don’t believe there is any sort of comprehensive training for education even available to her. And I have found, that even though our programs director does a fabulous job at all of this, it is too much for one person to be responsible for almost everyone in the church’s christian education. I really think REPENT is the right word and we need to figure out a way to better support our programming and do a much better job than what is currently the status quo.

  7. Alyson Stewart

    I had a similar experience recently when I moved to another state and started volunteering in youth Sunday school in an Episcopal church near us.

    I tried to get to know the youth and help create a vision with the young people at the church. I was largely ignored and faith formation lessons I wrote were simply never even looked at by the current unqualified “youth leader volunteer / head of church board” because of fears that I was conservative since I came from Texas. YET, a month into my volunteering I was offered at a job to be the regional youth director/coordinator. I would have rather been offered a children’s / youth ministry director position!

    This job would let the area churches think that youth were important to the area and save the leadership the money, time, and commitment of creating relationships or effective programs in the multiple churches in the city and region who had no effective youth program. I did not take the job and am taking a break from being a youth director now to have a child and rethink what I want my role to be in leading youth in a positive, proactive way.

    Needless to say, I agree that outsourcing youth ministry to other levels in a conference or district short-changes young people in countless ways, regardless of whether the people in those leadership positions are qualified or understand their true job descriptions. Having multiple titles at a church can work for smaller churches but requires a higher level of training and experience to deal with the rather disjointed ministerial tasks and objectives. A level of training and experience that they may not be willing to search or pay for in the end.

    • Thanks Alyson!

      So what is needed then at the “macro” level of leadership? How do we develop these folks? What is the “farm system” so to speak.


      • There obviously need to be discussions of what is the actual goal of children’s and youth ministries at district and conference levels, not just jargon or politically correct cliches that have been plaguing these ministries. (You can look at a youth director job description to get a taste of what NOT to include!) If the higher levels of leadership would acknowledge that there is a problem with this system of combining positions within a church staff, then plans could be made for how to once again divide the jobs that have been combined or set out a path on how to make it a functional new blueprint for ministry in some churches. Then, if the churches aren’t capable of reaching those objectives, training needs to be offered on a large scale for youth leaders and their volunteers as well.

        This could be viewed as a large vs. small church issue on the subject of money and who they can afford to have as paid staff. If that’s the case, salaries could possibly be subsidized by the conference on a sliding scale until the churches are independently able to pay their own salaries. During that subsidized period, required trainings or requirements could be suggested or mandatory for those individuals to assure that the money is well-spent and leaves the church with someone capable of leading their designated ministry.

        I think that Youth Ministry Certification would help develop skills, but it needs to have clear applications with set goals to incorporate what is learned in their individual ministry settings. Those goals could be worked toward in unison with pastors or conference/district staff.

  8. Rachel Magruder

    I agree!! As a youth myself, I don’t want to feel like my youth minister was handed this job out of some repositioning due to re-budgeting! I want to feel like my youth minister would do the job whether or not he got paid. I think that a sense of community is lost when the leader of a youth group or children’s group is not fully equipped to do the job- and community is the number one thing we should be concerned about at a young age anyways!!! Youth are still dependent on parents!!!

  9. I’m on the same page as you. I don’t have a great deal of experience working with youth yet, but I think ministry itself reflects a lot of these qualities. What is a Christian Educator anymore anyway? In my fraternity, one of the most important elected officers is the Fraternity Education Officer. He is in charge of educating the new members in our traditions, our object, our philosophy, etc. In my fraternity we are united around a set of virtues. Because we are united, we plan events, have meetings, fellowship, etc. So what do we unite around in youth group anymore? What do we unite around in church anymore? Let me go through confirmation again; teach me about the quadrilateral, the Eucharist, the trinity again. Maybe then this faith will be vital enough in mine and others’ lives that numbers are never a problem ever again.

    • Thank you Timmy!

      What a grand idea to learn from fraternity about uniting around values! GREAT! And I think you are onto something thinking through Confirmation as a repeatable rite that we need in an on-going way.

      Great thinking!


  10. Interestingly enough I’ve always seen a lot of my job as youth minister as trying to work myself out of job. My job is to be a bridge between the youth of our church, of our world, of our community and bridge it with the church itself, the adults of the church, the full family of God, etc… It would be ideal if the church would not need me and would be in authentic relationships and provide nurturing places of education and growth for youth while still learning and growing from the youth in their midst. While of course I am confident enough of the failure in this bridge making that I have dedicated my career and my sense of God’s calling in my life to work on continuing to make it shorter. While I don’t think that necessarily the problem is putting things in the hands of volunteers and laity, I would agree on the problem of not having resources and “go to people” in place especially at the conference levels is a lot of the trouble. When the goals and hopes and dreams of youth ministry are so scatter between pragmatics, politics and doctrine it is hard to get to a singular vision on what makes an expert. I think this goes for where we can easily place children’s or youth ministry in either our local church or at the conference level. It seems much easier to work on old models, keep in place that which looks good, and to just downright ignore the practical source of revitalization and new life that can be found in any of our churches – the prophetic youth in our midst. Repent is a good word, but I think the command to Go and Do Something about it needs to follow after.

    • Great wisdom here Paul! I’ve always said “You’ve hired me to put all of you to work in the lives of Youth” that way I am not seen as a sub-contractor for faith formation.

      If you were in charge of ministry on a Meta Level what would be your first few actions steps to “Go and Do” something?



      • I’m not completely sure exactly what you mean by Meta, but I think some of the first action steps we should look towards are helping folks figure out how they can buy into to the overall youth ministry even if they otherwise seem unconnected. Two examples that jump to mind would be like help an older congregation member of your local church help find the best way support youth – sometimes this might mean more than just tossing in the little bit of money that comprises the meager youthworker salary or budget or mission fund. And then the same thing going larger to a conference level, I would push it to helping engage other clergy and active laity to help see their own role in youth ministry without being necessarily involved. Maybe it’s just my recent involvement in summer camp, but why does it just have to be the directors and counselors that directly have a hand in the planning and implementation. It seems that our churches and conferences and not to mention youth are at a loss that other non-youth clergy and laity don’t help with even non-contact things like curriculum, marketing or even camp facility management. Even though it’s easy to think folks are snubbing youth ministry by not buying into the program aspect of it, I think sometimes it is that we as the program ministers don’t look for ways to outsource our ministry into ways they can practically and viably engage. Of course, as I’m saying these words – I’m convicted of how I haven’t been always the best at this myself…

  11. Thanks for your thoughts. They are very in line with a discussion I had with a group of youth workers today about the past/current trend of attraction based youth ministry and how these programs rarely effectively grow committed followers of Christ.

    As a youth ministry equipper, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to equip and encourage our churches and youth workers to build programs focused on making disciples and effectively incorporating youth into the church body. This is actually a passion of mine! I am working on a training weekend now to offer this fall that will follow with mentoring as they begin to implement changes in their program. I have found many times that people truly want to have fruitful youth ministry but they lack the training and experience to know how to create a strong program. They also need encouragement and guidance to implement change.

    I believe that a strong focus on discipleship is necessary in all areas of the church, not just children’s/youth ministry. I feel as though our “adult ministries” have passed on some bad habits to our youth and children. We are dealing with multiple generations of church members who have grown comfortable receiving religious goods and services. They attend worship and Bible studies (maybe), programs and fellowship events and even sit on committees, but are not being challenged to truly follow Christ in all they do. Of course, this isn’t the picture of every congregation. There are many doing wonderful things!

    • Great thoughts and plans Helene! I am so thankful for the work you are doing!

      How can we better reach t “resource” what I call “The Other 80%” meaning the churches where there is no paid worker with Youth or Children and no budget for the ministry? I am concerned that all the resourcing on the National level is aimed at paid staff with budgets. But I believe the vast majority of folks doing vital ministry with children and youth are in the other 80% of churches that don’t have these.

      Ideas? What can we do on a larger scale even across conference or jurisdictional boundaries?



      • That 80% is my focus right now. I have been connecting with churches with volunteer run youth ministries to see how we can best help them and I’ve been relying on Charge Conference forms for contact info for volunteer workers. I have lunch w/ youth workers from a different District every Wednesday to get to know them and their ministries. A lot of these volunteers work during the day, but have all said they would come to some specialized training for their ministry needs, if they were offered on the weekends and, of course, free or really cheap. They’re also interested in web trainings so they can watch them at midnight or whenever else they can. (I need to work on that!)

        But personal contact and chatting over coffee seems to be really helpful for a lot of these workers. Haha.. it seems as though all I do lately is eat and talk and drink coffee and talk more. I also use social media to keep in touch and provide whatever help or support I can. With 1200 churches in Indiana, I can’t possibly be able to deliver that same level of attention to everyone. I am working on creating mentor groups in geographical areas throughout the State, with experienced youth workers heading the groups.

        I am also working on building a resource list for our workers to find free curriculum and teaching helps for their groups. I have created a lot of curriculum that I share with them as well.

        There is so much work to do! But, I can already see the benefit of it all. I LOVE to see youth workers and their ministries grow!

        • Helen,

          This sounds awesome! Thank you so much for what you are doing and for your vision. I know it must already be making a huge difference.

          So, we need your voice and experience in the “think-tank” about how to help everywhere, especially in places in the country where they do not yet have somebody like you.

          I am very excited about you work and pray for you weekly.


  12. Catherine Dodge

    Great article – all good thoughts!

    Agreed that the church needs to go back to it’s original purpose of faith building and hiring for that purpose, with children and youth pastors being trained in dealing with those age groups (in addition to their seminary/theology training). Volunteers could then focus on the coordination, logistics, and event planning. I think partnering in this manner would be more possible with younger generations of parents, who are tech savvy and could use smart phones and many free tools for communications and planning (Jot Form, Mail Chimp, websites, Facebook, etc).

    Of course, a big part of the issue is budgets – why are they down? Well, in many cases, church attendance and membership is down. To bring people back to the church, it needs to be a center of spiritual connection and community, which many mainstream churches have lost. I find many of my generation (X) find community/connection/spirituality through other groups outside the church. I myself, admit with hesitation, that I rarely spiritually connect or encounter “thin places” in my own church during worship service. I attend to meet other spiritually minded folks, but most of us find ourselves connecting more through small groups, music, being out in nature, etc. Much of my group attends our Sunday School class and events, but don’t attend service as they are unable to connect spiritually in this atmosphere (particularly those who didn’t grow up in a church service like it – the words and practices are foreign to them).

    A previous fundamentalist, I have gone to many non-denominational and mega churches. While not agreeing with much of their theology anymore, I believe we can learn from many of them on spiritual and community connection. Between the prayer groups, small groups, easily accessible music (for people who can’t sing, like me), passion, participatory experiences, etc…. I found myself much more able to spiritually connect at many of these churches.

    So many mainline protestant denominations are overly intellectual and lack the sensual/experiential qualities of the Catholic, Orthodox, or Non-Denominational churches. As an intellectual myself, who very much enjoys dry theology reading, I appreciate the academic/theological sermons of mainline protestant churches. But my soul/spirit also longs for a more full sensory experience, that taps into our sense of sight (iconography), sound (chanting and bells), smell (incense), and participation (genuflection, lighting of candles kneeling).

    • Thanks Catherine!

      What a great movement it would be to utilize the holistic ways of being, doing, thinking that you advocate here and allow it to pull all generations together rather than segmenting.

      So, if you were in charge of the world, what practical first steps would you take to bring the generations together?


  13. Hi Charles! Interestingly, I am now on extension appointment in The United Church of Canada, which I see as a foreshadow of where Methodism will be about my retirement age, 2045. I serve in one of the top 10 largest congregations in the denomination, and we have less than 300 in worship on a Sunday. The trend here is for most churches not to even have an associate who does children, youth, or pastoral care. Solo pastorates are all the churches can afford. But churches that can afford a ministry team member, usually strap that person with children, youth, seniors and pastoral care, all at a part-time, maybe 3/4-time job.
    Over the next 20 years, we cannot depend on having professional staff as children, youth and pastoral care, because churches won’t be able to afford the multi-staff teams that have allowed children and youth ministers to flourish over the past 100 years. I agree that we have lost the faith development and age development component of our Christian education, and, we have lost the appreciation of elders and young adults together.

    • Thanks Kathryn! We miss you in NTX!

      Yes, I believe you are describing what I call the other 80% meaning the vast majority of UMCs. So how do we get the valuable things we know about faith development to the other 80%? What are you learning in Canada that could help elsewhere?

      Praying for your work,


  14. I hear ya, Charles, but it isn’t just youth and children’s ministries. Similar things happen in adult ministry. I recently had to threaten to quit if they tried to make me do children’s ministries along with adult, young adult, newsletter, social media, pastoral care, missions ministries (and then several months later, I left anyway following my wife to DC).

    Formation in general is not seen as important in too many churches. Adult formation creates better (might I add great) leaders for children and youth; yet, it is only something that we do if other things don’t get in the way.

    Thanks for sharing this. You did well with it.

    • Thank you Troy!

      I think you are on to the solution I have been contemplating. What if we did a much better job with adult formation and therefore had more adults ready to do formation with children and youth thus feeding more into adult formation, etc. When did we loose this? And, how do we re-imagine it in a way that makes it a priority?

      Praying for you all in DC my friend!


  15. A BIG thank you to everybody who has been part of the conversation. I am working on a follow up piece so feel free to drop me a line if you have some more good ideas. Blessings!


  16. I’m actually retired, but I was one of those trained Christian educators that usually had some responsibility for all ages. What disturbs me most is when the “search committee” only considers someone who can get along and “loves” children or youth. Yes, that’s important, but to have a truely effective children or youth ministry that which turns the wheels is actually that volunteer adults. The children/youth director must be able to train the adult leaders or else you only have a “pide piper program” – someone who draws the children/youth for good times but has no meat to offer. And the training of the adult volunteers must be in spiritual development as well as in lesson planning and discipline.

    And you are right about the parents today not being knowledgable about faith. I’ve pushed, for some time, to have a family Sunday school class where all ages learn together. In fact one of my books (SIDE BY SIDE) gives all sorts of suggestions for this. (See my web site: The plus for this is that parents (who are afraid to admit that they know nothing about faith/Bible) learn right along with their children.

    Sorry I don’t seem to follow these conversations more closely and am so slow in commenting here.

    • Delia,

      I have relied on your great CE work for years from afar! Thank you for all you have done for our craft!

      I agree with you 100%. And I really think we need to re-focus on multi-generational Sunday school and faith-learning experience opportunities. I look forward to seeing what you have.

      Would be happy to have you in the conversation anytime, slow, slower or fast. 🙂


  17. I think the “support” needs to come from the lay people. Since my last post, our Pastor’s wife has had an aneurysm and our music director’s husband is in the final months of his life. Since these circumstances have drastically changed our church’s staff abilities to work 40-60 hour weeks, we are asking that others step up and help the church with the on-going ministries. We even compiled a long list of things that weren’t getting done or areas of ministry that were weak and needed volunteers and handed this list over the the head of our Leadership Committee (SPRC). We are hopeful that this is a time God will use these awful circumstances to change hearts and open eyes to the ministries that need to be taking place in our community. The church can not afford another staff person so until the church members either increase their pledges, then we need the lay people to be our support and DO MINISTRY with our staff, so that all areas of ministry and education can be better and not the status quo as I’ve mentioned before.

    • Kristen,

      I think this is a GREAT point! Thank you for bringing it up. In the early Methodist Movement the laity were often the only ministers and did almost everything in between circuit rider visits which might be 2 years at a time in some areas. The office of Class Leader was also an important role. In the professionalization of ministry, we have often forgotten that ministry is the work of everybody lay and ordained and professional and there are few ordained and professional folks and the financial burden of staff is overwhelming a lot of vital churches these days.

      I’ll be praying for your church.


  18. Charles,

    I agree there is something that is fundamentally changing, yet at the same time things are staying way too much the same.

    What is changing – The World, Communications, People, Weather Paterns, Business styles, Leadership Principals, Broadcast Media, ect… (this list could go on forever)

    What it results in is that the average member of the congregation is different than 20 months ago let alone 20 years ago.

    What isn’t changing – (at least not fast enough) The Way Churches Function, The Way Pastors Lead, Expert Positioning of Ministry Leaders, The Way Churches Communicate.

    This problem is part of my call to ordained ministry. I feel I can better serve the youth of tomorrow by helping to bring about some change as a Sr. Pastor.

    I hope that some of the changes that I could bring would have a positive effect. Here is where I would start. I would improve the communication level between the average John Jane Pewgoer and the Ministry Team. This would be by way of not only listening but generating content that is useful more than once a week. (If its not enough for youth to be developed in one meeting a week why are their parents expected to continue spiritual growth on Sunday morning. I would leverage new media and communication tools to do try and accomplish this.

    By increasing the spiritual formation and theological education of the average pew-goer through new media, we will hopefully re-capture the expert positioning as a resource for families in making disciples and be treated like babysitters less.

    Keep shaking the tree Charles when enough leaves fall an entire landscape can be beautifully transformed.

    • Jacob,

      I hear what you are saying, thanks. But I would encourage you to go further. What if the average Jane and Joe in the pew WERE the ministry team? What if Youth ran their own ministry? What if we didn’t professionalize discipleship so that folks could opt out as church staff is paid to do things?

      Just a thought.


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