Ask and Receive
group magazine: February, 1994
From: February 1994 GROUP Magazine
Keywords: Motivate Discouraged Problem Responses
Ask & Receive
When I started my part-time youth ministry job, I discovered that (1) the church has had at least three youth directors in the past year alone; (2) of the youth who attend, none of their parents are interested in the church; (3) only two members of the youth committee show up for meetings or events; and (4) the church seems to only care about the youth group if something goes wrong. How can I motivate the adults in this church to minister with me to these young people? HELP!
Discouraged youth leader
I came into a similar situation when I started my part-time youth ministry job. You can take several steps. (1) Find out why the previous youth directors left; for example, were they frustrated or forced to leave? (2) Focus on the active kids in your group. They will serve as the base to build the rest of the group on. (3) Try to find non-parent adult volunteers to make phone calls and personal visits. (4) Keep the congregation informed about what's going on, such as making announcements in worship and publicizing information in the newsletter. (5) After you feel more confident with your core group, have a kickoff or group renewal program. Use fliers, phone calls, and announcements to invite as many kids and parents as possible.
Realize that this will be a difficult job and you may not see results for months or even years. But when the youth ministry starts to improve, it'll be well worth the effort. After seven frustrating months, with an average attendance of six to eight, I've watched the group grow relationally and spiritually to 25 to 30 kids. So hang in there!
When I began my ministry about a year ago, there was a wall of complacency and disinterest between the adults and the teenagers. Neither group understood the other, nor did they know what was important to the other.
We've built many bridges between these two groups by doing some simple things. We make an effort to keep each group informed about the other. We also have more teen service projects that directly affect the adults of our church. Most importantly, we've developed a prayer base among our adults. These adults regularly pray for our kids because they know what's going on in kids' lives and have a real concern for them.
Praise God you're where you are. The time you spend with this congregation will be a valuable learning experience for you and them.
Forget everything you ever learned about youth ministry. Start fresh without any pre-conceived ideas on what a successful youth ministry looks like. Begin where the kids and the church are right now. Your biggest task will be getting to know these kids and their families on a relational basis.
Young people need to know that those they're confiding in will be around for a while. Otherwise, why get close? If you want to be different than your predecessors, then hang around for awhile. You'll see the fruit.
Talk with all of the parents one-on-one. Find out their concerns and why they feel the way they do. Show parents you're on their side and that you're concerned about what they have to say. Be flexible and willing to work with parents to make a program that reflects Christ and the concerns of the parents.
Find other youth committee members. Establish guidelines for their leadership. Our volunteers must help at least twice a month and come to staff meetings. We require kids in leadership to be at all normal church functions, our monthly youth staff meetings, and our service and outreach projects once a month. Having strict guidelines helps weed out the committed from the non-committed. Be thankful for the two youth committee members you have. A lot of churches don't even have that much support.
Pay for volunteers' costs to youth activities. Use adults where their talents fit; for example, if a volunteer loves to cook, have him or her help with a progressive dinner. Or if a man likes sports, ask him to take a group of young people to a professional ball game. Become friends with adults in your congregation outside of church functions. Affirm your adult staff through thank-you letters, remember them on birthdays, and listen to them and their needs.
Write down your vision. Send it to parents, kids, and church members. Give one copy to your pastor. People need information they can understand before they'll support you. Find one or two adults who'll be friends and family to you. Pray and cry with them. Let people see your excitement and love for the Lord. Talk a lot about your program.
And finally, ask yourself, "Why did I come?" You can reach kids and adults in this community for the Lord.
Rapid City, South Dakota
Make your youth group visible to church members.
Start a prayer sponsorship program. Ask adult volunteers to anonymously pray daily for a youth group member for three months. Give volunteers pertinent information about their youth group member to help them know that person better. Give a dinner at the end of the three months. Reveal the anonymous prayer sponsors. Have both kids and adults share how it felt to be pray-ers and prayer receivers.
Or have youth group members send hand-signed Valentine's Day cards (bought or handmade) for each family in your church. Either mail them or get permission to insert them in your Sunday bulletin. Or have kids be greeters and hand each family a card as they come to church.
Have kids do a service or work project such as paint a Sunday school room, plant flowers, or help fold Sunday bulletins. Then thank the kids publicly during Sunday worship.
What would you do?
When we took over this youth ministry, we had only eight kids. We now have 40 to 45 kids each week and we have a lot of gang members. We're volunteers. And our church doesn't have a full-time youth pastor. Our church doesn't believe we need one, but we believe we do. How can we run this group without leadership and reach these gang kids? We have very little time and resources. And we're about ready to give up.
Desperate, confused, and frustrated
Send your problem or response to "Ask & Receive," GROUP Magazine, Dept. MG, Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539.
Copyrightę 1994 Group Publishing, Inc. / GROUP Magazine