We are working through an article by Scott Thomas on replanting an existing church, that is, renewing a church so that it grows and matures as a church plant does.
e. Envision an effective youth and children’s ministry
- Will they be integrated into the church ministry? If so, how?
- How will families be strengthened through the student ministry?
- How will the youth be encouraged and trained to evangelize their friends?
- What role will the heads of households play in the student ministry?
- Who (person or groups) will lead the youth and children’s ministry?
- What facility changes are needed to communicate the value of children and youth?
- What other positions of leadership need to be filled to be effective?
- What leadership development with the students will be put into place?
- What programs or customs need to be extracted from the youth and children’s ministry to avoid distractions from the ministry goals?
This is a tough one. You see, I don’t think we know how to do this. I’m not sure anyone does. In fact, in my experience, most of the time the success of a youth ministry is much more about the personality of the youth minister than any particular approach to doing ministry — and that tells me that we’re catering to the consumerist mentality of our kids (learned at the feet of their parents) rather than calling them into God’s mission.*
And so, I’d like to suggest another approach to children’s and teen ministry. Let’s start with another thought experiment. Here it is: if we were to have the perfect children’s ministry, what would be the outcome? What are we trying to accomplish anyway?
You see, we often go wrong because we aim for the wrong things. The goal isn’t to have huge Wednesday night crowds of frenzied teens. Not really. Nor is the goal to have teens who’ve mastered the oh-so-difficult skills of passing communion or giving a three-minute speech. Most of them will manage that just by growing up.
Nor should we be satisfied if our program churns out kids who are regular attenders and willing to participate in church programs. That would be better than we actually do in many cases, but hardly good enough.
And while we certainly want kids who are sexually pure and honest, we are really aiming for much more than that, aren’t we?
And should we be satisfied if the teen minister gets 100% of the new teens baptized in the lake at Bible camp each year? Is that the goal? Baptized teens? I know plenty of churches that baptize lots of teens only to see them abandon their Christianity as soon as they leave home.
No — the goal for the teens is the same as the goal for the adults. Not one little bit less. That means we want our teens —
* To care for those in need with compassion.
* To caress the untouchable.
* To serve — even to die — for others, to bring redemption to people who don’t deserve it
* To care for God’s creation is though we were part of making it
* To be filled with the Spirit and commune with God by having the Spirit in us while being in Jesus
* To be a community that, like a city on a hill, shines so brightly that the lonely, rejected, and needy seek us out, knowing there is refuge among us.
Something like that.
That’s the goal.
How might we measure how well we’re doing with that? Well, not by Wednesday night attendance or Bible camp baptisms. How about these measures?
How many teens who graduate from our program —
* Become full-time ministers or missionaries?
* Become ministry leaders? elders?
* Become members of a church plant team?
* Volunteer in programs that lift up the poor and oppressed in ways that involve personal contact with the people being helped?
* Participate in annual short-term missions?
* Organize programs to help the environment in the name of Jesus?
* Work intentionally to bring the lost to Jesus?
* Find ways to shepherd others, even if they have no official title?
* Are part of the backbone of their congregation’s volunteer ministries?
Something like that.
And if we defined our goals along those lines, how might that change how we run our teen and children’s ministries?
* No criticism of my congregation’s current teen ministers or their program is intended. They do great work. I’ve worked with a lot of teen ministers over the years, not all at my present church. I even tried my hand at it on a volunteer basis — back when dinosaurs ruled the earth.