Harvesting the Winds of Enthusiasm in Youth Ministry
Years ago, my youth group mushroomed in attendance, energy, attitude, and involvement. A wind blew across the bow of our ministry that sailed us into many exciting moments. Kids were to coming to Christ left and right, my emotional connections and attachments with them deepened, and their world felt the impact. Why did it happen? I’ve come to see that there were specific actions that generated unbelievable enthusiasm. They were:
Secure and Disciple a Key Leader – My first three years I made feeble attempts at discipling some boys. Two, in particular, Keith and Mike, I allotted precious time to no avail. Both wonderful boys were more followers than leaders.
Then Jerry joined. Immediately I knew I had hit a gold mine of leadership. Keith and Mike became Jerry’s friends. Now all three boys began to lead with Keith and Mike following Jerry. The entire youth group respected Jerry. God was working in his life and he knew it. As he and I grew closer, I could ask him to encourage the youth group to participate in a planned event and he would. They came because he said so. Yet, Jerry alone in his present spiritual shape was not a spiritual leader. That came with time—time on retreats in God’s Word.
Set Spiritual Retreats for Impact – William Lonergan, in Laymen’s Retreats Explained, has written of the retreat experience as “withdrawal from ordinary life, that by thought and prayer and under the expert guidance of a competent master, a man may reconsider the purpose of life here on earth, plan to employ such means as will make that end more secure, and strengthen his will to abide by those plans.”
I took three retreats that year where kids reconsidered their life’s purpose. Each return resulted in a deeper spiritual walk. These retreats worked for three reasons: the youth group loved the retreat site, Bible study was the main attraction, and getting away from all of teenage distractions allowed God to work. That said, one thing I would change: I would not lead everything on the retreat. It drained me emotionally and physically.
When we returned from one of these retreat settings, a chaperone who had been one of my critics, said during the following Sunday night to the church family, “One thing for sure can be said about this retreat, our kids got plenty of Bible study.” I would only add, God used the Bible study to transform lives. These retreats set the tone for all God was doing that year to change lives. The retreats had greater impact because of our emphasis on evangelism.
Saturate Everything You Do With Evangelism – Nothing excites youth more than seeing their friends come to Christ. That begins by helping teens fall in love with Christ. Brian Eberly at youthministry360 says, “My primary “strategy” is pretty simple: I help my students discover who Jesus is, and to fall in love with Him and His message. It is my belief that when a student is a committed follower of Christ it will be freely evidenced in their life. People will be drawn to Him.”
Such intentional strategy always results in evangelism. I enhanced its happening by reminding teens of The Great Commission. Not one youth meeting, gathering or activity passed without mentioning sharing Christ with their friends. In addition, I planned specific events, which I knew would bring kids to Christ.
In the summer, my youth choir took our annual summer tour and presented an evangelistic musical. We sang this work in practice every week leading up to the tour. The tour itself was a wonderful, fruitful experience. At our home concert, the aisles were full of group members receiving Christ as Lord and Savior.
Seizing the momentum, for a WOW (Win Our World) Weekend I brought in a youth minister from another state to train group members in using an evangelistic tract. Making a list of teens without Christ, group members were sent out by twos to share their faith. Remaining at the church, I had the wonderful opportunity to witness returning teenagers crying with joy.
They said, “Bro. Danny, you won’t believe it. I helped lead Shelly to a relationship Christ. Isn’t that wonderful?” Indeed it was. For the first time in their young lives, they had voiced their faith and someone received Christ. But nothing prepared us for what awaited our youth group. Tragedy came our way. We would either blame God or use it to bond our group together.
Stay Sensitive to Relationship-Building in Times of Crisis – My group lost a key leader in an automobile accident. A young couple who assisted on Wednesday nights with our youth group, tragically hit head-on two drunks running from the police. The husband, mangled and broken, sat near his wife and unborn child, whom he knew were both dead. Many of the girls in my group had felt Nadine’s stomach the Wednesday before the accident. I had an upset group of teenagers.
Arriving at the funeral home first, I consoled and prayed with group members. Chris Perry, a veteran youth minister, while ministering to his youth group in a tragic school shooting says, “What I saw was the youth group acting as a safety net. That means two things: (1) If hurting teenagers come to our group, can they fall into our safety net—our ministry? (2) Can God trust us with hurting kids? Sometimes I think hurting kids are not brought into certain folds because the Lord knows they may not be cared for there. I’ve been fertilizing and watering the “safety net” concept for a couple of years now. I saw it take on flesh and bone. It was one of those mental snapshots I’ll have forever.”
I too have been growing that safety net. Because I helped my group through their grief, relationships were sealed—teens began ministering to teens. It was surreal. From then on, anything I asked them to do, they would do it. I had earned their trust. The result of these applications: Trust. When group members trust their leaders, enthusiasm for the things of God is a given.
This article “Harvesting the Winds of Enthusiasm” by Danny Kannel was excerpted from: www.youthministry.com web site. August 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”