10 Things That Will Ruin Your Youth Ministry
By Walter Norvell
What threatens growth in your youth ministry? Like a summer garden, you need to get out the “weeds” and “pests” if you want your youth’s ministry to grow…”Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” Ever wondered why Mary is so contrary? Maybe it’s because she battles threatening weeds and pests so her silver bells, cockle shells and pretty maids will grow in a row.
Like Mary, you need to cut down “weeds” and terminate “pests” if you want your youth’s ministry to grow. But unlike contrary Mary, weeding out these 10 threats to your program will yield joy.
Lack of communication
If people don’t know what’s happening in your youth ministry they assume nothing of consequence is happening. Refuse to communicate and your youth’s ministry will never be a priority to the church and community. People vital to your youth ministry need to know what’s going on in order to support the work. If they don’t know about it, they can’t support it.
Talk about your ministry with your pastor, other staff members, volunteers, parents, the community and youth. Promote your ministry in church publications, community advertising, and best yet, word of mouth from satisfied participants.
Not valuing youth
Don’t be guilty of loving your ministry but not loving youth. If you don’t value your youth, neither will your church. And if youth are treated as second-class citizens in your church, your youth’s ministry will suffer. Your ministry won’t receive the space; staffing and budgeting other groups receive.
Validate youth as individuals of worth just as Jesus did. Let your youth and church know how much you value them. For example, do you get at eye level to talk to them or do you tower over them? Do you call youth “rebellious renegades” or other subtly degrading terms?
Run-down youth’s space
Art Murphy, a youth’s minister in Florida, says that cluttered, run-down youth facilities communicate that little is happening there for youth. He says, “A clean, bright, roomy facility cleared of old materials or unused furniture communicates that youth are loved, wanted and expected.”
Walk through your youth’s space twice. Evaluate it from an adult’s viewpoint, then from a teen’s perspective. List needs and make changes!
If you do it all your way and all by yourself, you not only risk ruining your youth ministry. You may also ruin yourself. In Ephesians 4:12, Paul told leaders “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” When you’ve trained and staffed your ministry, it’ll go on reaching youth for Christ even when you’re gone. Multiply your ministry by recruiting willing volunteers to shoulder the work with you.
No family ministry
The primary shapers of a teens development are parents and immediate family. Teaching or caring for youth one or two hours a week at church is helpful, but the greatest good happens when you take ministry directly to the whole family. You may be surprised at the needs you’ll see when you look at a family through a teen’s eye.
Develop ministries to reach the entire family, such as home visitation, parent-training courses or family-crisis counseling.
Lack of volunteer training
You know volunteers who have outstanding gifts and a real aptitude for youth ministry. But even “natural-born” workers benefit from training and encouragement. Plan training events, provide written resources for individual study and send your volunteers to youth ministry conferences.
Develop regular or ongoing leadership-training so volunteers can update their skills.
Competing with media for youth’s attention
There’s a temptation in our media-saturated world to spend lots of money on state-of-the-art equipment and technology. You may want to leave your youth amazed and dazzled with mind-boggling programming and events.
Don’t give in to the temptation. Art Murphy ministers in the shadows of the world’s best high-tech theme parks in Orlando. But he doesn’t advocate eye-popping programming. He says the best programs are simply “noisy gongs and clanging cymbals” unless they communicate love. Art challenges his youth volunteers to make Bible study and other programs real instead of “Disney-like.”
Your kids remember special effects only until they see a better effect. They’ll remember truth shared in love for a lifetime. Helping youth apply and understand one biblical principle is better than knocking their socks off with technological brilliance.
Strive for genuineness and transparency in leading events and Bible studies. Embody Jesus’ message of love by lovingly teaching youth.
Isolating youth’s ministry from the church
Youth ministry can become a “satellite” ministry, spinning on its own axis and following its own orbit. If this happens, your program may not embrace your church’s goals and philosophy. And it’ll suffer from a lack of intergenerational contact with church members. Meanwhile, your teens will miss out on Christ’s larger purpose for the church in the world.
Write a purpose for youth ministry and describe how it relates to the total church.
Everyone wants to feel needed and valued. You do. And so do the people who help make your ministry possible. We’ll go the second mile for someone who appreciates us.
Review the past month of your personal calendar for names of people who’ve assisted, encouraged or served in your youth ministry. Write simple, heart-felt thank-you notes. You’ll reap what you sow.
The most dangerous threat to any ministry is “neglect.” If you don’t weed out problem areas, your ministry will wither away. Fight neglect in ministry by constantly evaluating your youth ministry. Rejoice in your successes and learn from your mistakes to keep neglect at bay.
Slip this list into the first page of your personal calendar. Each month, weed out any threats to your ministry’s success.
This article “10 Things that’ll Ruin Your Youth Ministry” was written by: Walter Norvell
Walter Norvell is a youth minister in Tennessee.
From: Group Publishing and Youth Ministry Magazine. March 2008