Does My Youth Ministry Have the Shape, the Story, and the Staff that Will Anchor Student’s Faith?
Lastly in our dialogue about helping students anchor their faith are questions about how we lead and how we let others lead.
Do my students experience impromptu faith and life conversations with adult leaders/peers that aren’t scripted, planned, or guided by a curriculum outline? Real life means real conversations and it’s crucial that we allow time and space for adults and students to have low-key, no pressure conversations. Those conversations become the building blocks for important dialogue in the future and build trust that allows for more authentic sharing.
Does my student ministry have any programs or events that intentionally invite parents to guide and encourage their child’s spiritual growth? If my volunteer leaders and I are the only ones sharing spiritual life with our students, then, I need to redirect some energy to including parents in this. My mantra is that no kid wishes he didn’t have a relationship with his parents, he just wishes it was a better one. So, one of my most important jobs is to help make students’ relationships with their parents better and more meaningful. When I’m long gone to a new ministry, or focusing my energies on a new class of students, their parents will still be intricately involved in their daily lives. Why not help them be intricately involved in their spiritual lives, too?
Do I take regular opportunities to share meals and conversations with parents? I’ve discovered that the two most difficult topics for parents to tackle with their kids are sex and faith. Now, I was never surprised about the first, but very much unprepared to find out how hard it is for parents to engage in a spiritual conversation with their teens. Sometimes it’s because it invites questions they don’t have an answer for. Sometimes it’s because they see their own faith journey as unimpressive and so, don’t feel they have any guidance to offer. And often, even parents with a vibrant faith still aren’t quite sure what it looks like to guide their child’s faith through adolescence. What I find when sharing a coffee or lunch with a parent is that we can encourage their faith journeys as well as coach them on guiding their kids. We can pour into their lives and that friendship with the youth worker overflows into their kids’ lives in a lasting way.
What is the percentage of time that I am “up front” or leading? Are there places where my volunteer leaders are ready to lead in my place? This one is a big ego check for me because I love being in front of a crowd. But I’ve discovered that ministry is multiplied when I spend time equipping other gifted people to lead and I use my up-front prep time to prepare others for the work of the gospel. An engineer by day might be a biblical scholar who can imprint the truth of scripture on students’ hearts by night. A mom or dad in my midst might actually connect with a group of students better than me. A college professor might have a crazy alter ego that can plan and execute an exciting outreach event. A CPA might secretly be a rockin’ guitar player. My motto has become to find out what talent and gifting I have in volunteers first and put those who are ready to lead up front. Then, I fill in the up-front leadership where there is no volunteer gifting available. What happens is then is that ministry keeps going and growing even when I can’t be there, or have to leave.
These are just some of the reflections I’ve learned to keep front and center in ministry. Consistency and perfection have never been achieved, but I have witnessed enduring life change in students over and over again that helps them put their wheels of faith to the test in the real world. And, that is something I hope to see repeated many times in the years ahead.