Looking back at 34 years of youth ministry, it’s amazing how many things I’ve been able to learn. It’s good to sometimes look back and see how the Lord has directed our path. In the beginning of my ministry career, I based my success on things like how many students showed up, did they engage, did they come back, was my message articulated clearly? These weren’t necessarily bad, but momentary success didn’t always result in a transformed life.
I wish I could say that ministry was fully intentional, but many of the things happened quite by accident, at least in my mind. In my first ministry position, if 2-4 students showed up, we’d go to Dairy Queen. If 5 or more showed up, we’d have a service. The small groups at Dairy Queen were actually more effective than the services! That’s where our relationships developed, and I earned the right to speak into their lives.
One of the rewarding parts of ministry has been to see young people discover their gifts and use them for the Lord. I always encouraged students not only to dream big, but to live out those dreams. Many started Bible groups at their school where they learned to preach and were able to own their faith and ministry; others started getting involved on the worship team and leading worship.
Throughout the years of youth ministry, I’ve noticed that those still serving the Lord today are the same ones who actively used their giftings and took ownership of ministry back then. They’re also the ones whom I and other youth leaders spent much time with apart from youth nights – which gave us opportunity for deeper mentoring and relationship growth. I noticed they also tended to take advantage of alter times and really purposed to BE WITH JESUS daily. Most entered into ministry after starting those Bible Groups at school.
Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:12
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
The questions I leave with you today are
How do we give ownership of our youth/kids ministries back to the students?
Are your students able to learn from you as you follow Christ when you’re away from the pulpit?
Here are some great resources I recommend regarding this topic:
4 Ways to Empower Your Kids To Live Out Their Faith, an article by Candi Cushman
Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderselt and Jackie Hill Perry, recommended by the National Youth Department. REALLY good and worth the read.
I pray that our years of ministry ahead are even greater than our previous years. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you. Oregon students are weighing in the balance.