Ministry Journey Blog

Thoughts on Ministry

17 Apr

Leading in Youth Ministry: Moving beyond Doing and Moving towards Being

Posted in Uncategorized on 17.04.15 by Merlyn

Newsflash: There is an intentional reason we are known as human beings rather than human beings. Nowhere in the culture and particularly the church is the expectation to constantly do and produce more significant than in youth ministry. As we continue to examine, re-think and re-imagine youth ministry, we must look beyond organization, strategy, programs and even philosophy. Rather, we must look deeper at our motivations and the values that dictate how we operate and lead. In youth ministry, we must move beyond doing move towards being. Its time to move away from a mindset of youth ministry that says we must constantly be doing something, to a mindset that is focused on presence, on what we are becoming rather than what we are doing. Below are five critical shifts that we must make in our youth ministries as we move beyond doing and move towards being.


Moving Beyond Doing

1. Moving beyond programs

Our youth ministries have been program driven for far too long. Programs are wonderful tools, but they do not make disciples. Jesus managed to have a profound ministry without a single programs. Our focus has becoming on programming, doing more, filling the calendar with more events and trying to find, create and lead a program for every possible student population. The church, like every institution that has influence in the lives of our adolescents has focused on busyness rather than care.

2. Moving beyond attraction

The focus of many youth ministries (and other ministries) is attraction. How can we attract more youth? What can we do to get our regular students to bring our friends? How can we make our programs more fun and attractive so more youth will come? In our desire to attract, we have compromised much and embraced superficiality as we have come to value attraction more that evangelism or discipleship.

3. Moving beyond personality

Most youth ministry is organized and lead through personality. Whether a charismatic leader, through the personality of the primarily leader, group of leaders or even a group of students, most youth ministries are structured around a certain type of personality. While this is tremendously effective for youth who are comfortable with that personality type, it ignores and often rejects those students who are not comfortable with that personality type.

4. Moving beyond management

While many youth workers are not good managers, management has become a key part of most youth ministries. Managing expectations, managing finances, managing volunteers, managing events and programs. As a result many youth workers have transition from leading to managing. While all ministry (and leadership) requires some management, leadership should take priority and precedence over management.

5. Moving beyond results/success

While most youth workers do not want to focus on numbers, results and success and find themselves forced to do so by their supervisors and organizations, youth workers are not innocent in this unhealthy approach to ministry. While complaining about the unhealthy focus on numbers that is forced upon them, most youth workers in talking with one another discuss numbers within 5 minutes of most conversations about their ministries. Having lead a youth worker networking group, almost every introductory conversation included a question about ‘how many in your youth ministry’ as one of the first five questions of the exchange.


Moving Towards Being

1. Moving towards discipleship

The primary purpose of our youth ministries is not to create, grow and perfect programs, rather it is making disciples. This is one of the most important calls and purposes of the Church. While programs can aid in discipleship, our focus should be on discipleship and not on programming. Our primary question should be: ‘how can I help our youth become stronger disciples of Jesus Christ,’ this rather than programming should drive our ministries.

2. Moving towards presence

Youth Ministry is often, should be and certainly desires to be deeply relational. We recognize that our youth need relationships and it is relationship that leads to the most effective, long-lasting transformation in the lives of adolescents. While we may recognize this truth and may focus on relationships, this is often done through programming. The key to relationships is not program, it is presence. Christ coming to earth, the incarnation is the definitive sign that relationship is primary and relationship requires presence.

3. Moving towards equipping

There are many great dangers to doing ministry out of personality. Our personalities are limited and flawed. A greater danger is what happens when a personality driven ministry faces a change in leadership. Our focus as youth workers should be on equipping adults and youth to direct and lead ministry in our churches by using their gifts. Rather than finding ways for us to leverage our own strengths to do more, youth workers must leverage the people God has given them to be more.

4. Moving towards leadership

Our call is to be leaders, not managers. Leadership requires much more of us and moves beyond ensuring our ministry happens. The most significant role of a youth worker is being a spiritual leader. Leaders are focused on equipping and moving others forward, not managing those that they are entrusted with.

5. Moving towards a rhythm

The most important end result of a youth ministry is not numbers, success in the eyes of others (or even yourself), but creating and sustaining a healthy rhythm that is focused on doing what is best for those you lead and serve, thinking theologically and creating a discipleship rich culture.

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