I remember the day I started as a Youth Pastor. Let’s just say it was a number of years ago. I thought it was all pretty simple. All I had to do was love students and help them be like Jesus, right? I may have been naive but it didn’t take me long to discover the road to student spiritual maturity was not a straight one. I did a lot of stuff but the truth of the matter was I had no idea where I was going. I needed some kind of a map, some kind of a strategy that could help me set the direction our youth ministry take. I talked with many of my peers and they seemed to be just as lost as I was. No one seemed to have a strategy they could clearly articulate that seemed to make sense and cover all the bases.
The interesting thing is that as I talk with youth pastors (many of them really sincere, dedicated, talented, and passionate people) they are just as lost now as I was then. I have been at this for almost 30 years. I have tried a lot of things, some have worked and some have failed miserably. Over the years, however, I have discovered that it is possible to build a healthy, well balanced, and sustainable youth ministry that sees students become disciples who make disciples.
The security of any building is found in its foundation. A strong foundation makes for a strong and healthy building. There are six things that healthy youth ministries all have in common. When one or more of the foundational elements is missing or weak the whole ministry will begin to wobble. But when they are in place and strong there is a foundation that can support amazing ministry.
Have you ever noticed that there are a wide variety of students out there. There are your typical church kids, disinterested church kids, pagan church kids, non church kids, antagonistic kids, and even passionate “I want to turn the world upside down for Jesus” church kids. A well balanced ministry is one that has ministry elements that reach kids at whatever level of spiritual interest they are at. In many churches, all of their programming is targeted at helping the typical church kid grow. Helping kids grow is great but it tends to leave out the kids on either end of the spiritual spectrum. The non-church and disinterested kids are not interested in growing so why would they come? The really turned on kids are already convinced and they want more than another growth level activity. But what would happen if our ministries had elements that interest students at whatever level of spiritual interest they have? What would happen if we had ministry elements that reached the unreached, helped the Christian kids grow, and equipped those who want more to shepherd and lead their peers? You would have a well balanced ministry!
But it also has to be sustainable. I am not a runner but I do know the difference between a sprint and a marathon. Youth ministry is not a sprint, it is a marathon! If we are going to make disciples who make disciples we need to have a ministry that is sustainable for the youth pastor, volunteers, and students over the long haul.
Having a ministry that is healthy, well balanced, and sustainable is possible and can make ministry highly effective and deeply rewarding.
I am passionate about helping youth pastors and youth leaders build healthy, well balanced and sustainable youth ministries that produce disciples who make disciples.