Youth Ministry

According to Harper’s Encyclopedia of Religious Education, “Youth Ministry” refers to “all the activities of planning, support, and leadership within a religious community that are intended to engage and nurture youth in the outlook and priorities of that community.”

The Encyclopedia points out that “the contemporary emphasis in youth ministry assumes that youth are genuine members of the religious body and, therefore, not just recipients of ministry but participants in the total congregational life and mission. A congregation implementing this point of view will think in terms of ministry with and by youth as well as for youth.” - From Harper's Encyclopedia of Religious Education (San Francisco, CA: Harper&Row, 1990), 712

Eight Components in a Youth Ministry Model
  1. Theological and philosophical foundations regarding what is believed, valued, and shared in mind and purpose.
  2. A description of the specific youth involved. Where are they developmentally? What is their subculture? What are their characteristics and needs?
  3. Intended outcomes. What do we hope to accomplish? How will we know if a youth ministry is effective?
  4. The elements of ministry and program: instruction, worship, fellowship, and service. What will we do in each element?
  5. The roles of both youth and adults. Who are the leaders? What specific roles will they play?
  6. Organization that is interrelated, interdependent, and well articulated.
  7. Analysis, evaluation, and feedback for the purpose of correction, improvement and change.
  8. A means to participate, observe, analyze, introduce change, evaluate, lead others in the group, follow leaders of the group, help others to lead, and make improvements in the model. - From John M. Dettoni, Introduction to Youth Ministry (Zondervan, 1993), 39,40.
“Youth are that part of the church which is moving through a particularly sensitive period of personal development,” says Barry Gane. “They are faced with a set of issues, problems and tasks that younger or older members do not face with the same intensity. As a result, they have a range of needs that require a distinct ministry that is especially directed towards meeting those needs.” - From Barry Gane, A Foundational Guide to Youth Ministry (Hancock Center for Youth and Family Ministry, 1997), 2.

Three Common Adolescent Dilemmas
  1.  “Why do I keep messing up everything?” One of the major immobilizers of teenage Christians is the sense that they simply do not measure up, physically, academically, intellectually, or spiritually. They are getting older, and they aren’t getting better.
  2. “But that’s not right…” It’s called apparent contradictions. Life itself causes doubt. Life raises questions. Building in students a durable faith means working through the questions with them.
  3. “I’m just not sure what I want to do." The reality of responsibility. Part of the freedom of childhood is the absence of difficult decisions concerning day-to-day living. But most of that kind of freedom ends during adolescence. It is exchanged for the more authentic and risky freedom of being able to choose one’s own restrictions and boundaries. - From Duffy Robbins, The ministry of Nurture (Youth Specialties, 1990), 144-149.
The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry
“The time has come for a revolution – a total restructuring of youth ministry. Continued modifications of the current system simply will not keep up with the changes in the world in which we live. Youth ministry has grown old. Leaders have become conservators of treasured memories. Ownership of property, advanced degrees, and successful youth ministry business ventures have minimized risk-taking and cultivated a desire for respectability.
“The problem which must be faced is, who will lead the revolution and what will the resulting forms of youth ministry look like?” - From Mark Senter, III, The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry and Its Radical Impact on the Church (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992), 29,30.

In The Complete Book of Youth Ministry (Benson and Senter, Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1987,202-223), Mark Senter presents a dozen axioms, propositions or self-evident truths that “isolate ministry principles that apply in all the models of youth ministry.” Whether you are in a large or small church, conducting inner-city ministry or live out in the country, are a youth pastor or a lay youth leader, a Bible teacher, chaplain or parent of a teen, these axioms will assist you in discipling your youth.

Twelve Axioms of Successful Youth Ministry
  1. Youth ministry begins when a Christian adult finds a comfortable method of entering a student’s world.
  2. Youth ministry happens as long as a Christian adult is able to use his or her contact with a student to draw that student into a maturing relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
  3. Youth ministry ceases to happen when the adult-student relationship is broken or no longer moves the student toward spiritual maturity.
  4. The influence of the student’s family on his or her value system will exceed the influence of the youth worker on most occasions.
  5. Most youth groups reach peak effectiveness when attendance reaches twenty to thirty high school students.
  6. Long term growth of a youth ministry is directly dependent on the ability of the youth worker to release ministry responsibilities to mature and qualified lay volunteers.
  7. A high school student will not be theologically mature until he or she is sociologically comfortable.
  8. The most effective youth ministries are those that rapidly move students into ministry postures.
  9. Student ownership of youth ministry guided by respected Christian adults is essential for the ministry to remain healthy.
  10. A youth ministry will reflect the vision of its adult leaders.
  11. In youth ministry the group performs three functions: identification, contribution, and consolation.
  12. The development of a youth ministry will not exceed the public communication skills of the primary adult leader.
“From: ABZ’s of Adventist Youth Ministry”
© 2000 John Hancock Center for Youth&Family Ministry
Permission to copy for use in the local congregation or group.

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