Thursday, December 09, 2010

Philosophy of Youth Ministry

I remember back in my days of college that during my youth ministry class, I wrote a paper on my philosophy of youth ministry.  A why I do (or wanted to do) what I do.  I remember that writing the paper was hard for me because at that point, I had not actually done youth ministry.  I had been a part of a few youth ministries but never led one.  I remember struggling through the paper trying to come up with the correct answers.  

I don't have that paper anymore (I wish I did) but I remember the focus being on relationships.  I remember writing about spending time with students, talking to them and just being there for them.  I now know that there is more to youth ministry than just hanging with students.  You have events to plan, parents to deal with, adult leaders to train and a church staff to work with.  All of these things have shaped my "philosophy" of youth ministry over the years.

My philosophy is kind of a mixed bag of different ideas that I have read about and adopted over the years.  My youth ministry philosophy is called RSS (Relational, Sustainable, Simple).  I believe these three components are the core of why I do what I do.  I believe that these three pieces help to form a youth ministry that will withstand the test of time.  I have never been a big fluff person. I don't have a super dynamic personality.  RSS, to me, will help build a ministry that isn't lost in programs and isn't tied to any single person.  Let me explain.

Relationships are the key to any ministry within the church.  If people don't feel accepted and loved, then they will find some where they will.  In youth ministry, this has to be more than the youth pastor.  We must teach others to be relational.  We must teach them how to talk to a student, be friendly and let others know they are willing to listen.  This is scary for most adults, and some students, but it is essential to making students feel welcomed in your ministry.

Sustainable ministry is a concept by Mark DeVries, that I believe all ministries need to adopt.  The goal is to build a ministry that is a church ministry, not just based on a single person (normally the youth pastor).  The churches role is to provide the resources (money, facilities, personnel) to put the ministry in a position to succeed.  The youth pastors job is to build a structure of ministry that goes beyond themselves.  I believe this is replicating yourself to allow other adult leaders to be the youth pastor to a group of students.  This is not an easy concept for some to follow but is essential to building a ministry that will last once the youth pastor is gone.

Simple Student Ministry is a concept by Jeff Borton.  (Simple Student Ministry was written to follow the book Simple Church by Thomas Rainer.)  The thinking is that our ministries do not have to be so complicated that students get lost in programming and events.  How many of us as youth pastors have complained about being to busy.  I believe this to be a very clear message to everyone.  I have learned over time that students aren't drawn to programs or events but to people.  Yes, they may come to your events but will they stick around.  I have taken this concept in our ministry and built not only simple one but one that is consistent.  Most of our events take place on Sunday night (our normal worship time) or Friday and we try to stick to the same night each month.  We also simplified our ministry by using our small groups to have events on their own, so we weren't always planning large events.

Some might look at this and find it to be very elementary in thinking but believe me, putting RSS to work is something else.  My philosophy will continue to change and develop as I learn new things and get into different situations but I believe that right now, this is a great way to run a youth ministry.