Teen Dating, Small Groups, and Mandatory Reporting: 3 Random YTH Ministry Principles
Effective YTH Ministry is comprehensive and exhaustive. And covers multiple topics.
Looking at the stats of the Millennial and GenZ set, I am reminded the work we have to do among the teenagers of our nation. Millennial’s and GenZ (the young adults and teens) might be drawn to things spiritual, but with a vastly different starting point from previous generations. There is a more liberal and inclusive truth platform that has been the default for religion in their culture.
That means YTH Ministry needs to make disciples of this generation by defining a whole new language of God. The role of the Church does not replace the family, but, YTH Leaders and the Church are critical to the development of the faith of young adults and teens. And this requires YTH Leaders to be in a co-operative relationship with parents and guardians as we do spiritual formation with young people.
In a Q & A session recently, several topics came up that I want to share with you in this blog. These topics will greatly help you define faith and solve important YTH Ministry questions.
What about the dating relationships of teenagers?
The answer begins with theology. The central principle that I have shared with teenagers for decades is that they do not need each other - as it relates to dating. As much as they think they do, we have to help teens understand that their most important relationship on earth is their relationship with God. When that is right, every other relationship they have will be right.
Hey, dating is cool. I’m not here to stop dating. That would be like the proverbial ant in front of the train trying to stop it dead in its tracks. But, a lot of things are cool.
Twinkies are Cool, swag is Cool, being funny and crazy is Cool, Converse or Nike are Cool, fohawks are Cool, and getting good grades are Cool. Listen, a Coach purse is Cool, backpacks are Cool, and a longboard is Cool. Being first is Cool. But that doesn’t mean we must conform to eating or wearing or being Cool.
I believe as a YTH Leader we must use a few principles when it comes to dating:
Help teens understand the most important relationship to them is Christ. Then a dating relationship will be right.
Begin with group dating. Encouraging teens to group date first will take a lot of pressure off them and help them learn from many different people how to handle relationships.
Give teens parameters. Sometimes it helps to have limits and practical guidelines. Such as; never be alone with a door closed, never turn the lights off, don’t lay under a blanket, and do not go beyond kissing.
How do I start a Small group?
We all know the importance of discipleship, mentoring, coaching, modeling, or accountability. Each of these are significant in their own right. What this is really about is theology (literally, ‘The Study of God’). Teaching students the knowledge of God.
That can be done in many ways. But usually that is done through preaching and teaching. Let me say, we need both in YTH Ministry. When I say preaching, I mean the declaration of God through inspirational biblical revelation. When I say teaching, I mean the definition of God through informational biblical revelation. Let’s deal with the teaching. And specifically in the Small Group setting.
Small group begins with valuing theology in the larger YTH Group setting. Wetting the appetites of students on a regular basis in the corporate YTH Service setting.
Before you begin a Small Group approach, you must train able leaders. This would include a teacher, host, and organizational person to be the communicator of the details.
Training leaders takes time. Identifying leaders who are loyal, have integrity, and who are apt to teach is a priority. The adult teachers and leaders must be trained how to lead teens through theology. And this will require annual conferencing, regular group instruction, and personal help on how to prepare lessons, ensure discussion, and lead teenagers.
The curriculum for these Small Groups is one of the keys to success. This should be something that is in sync with the YTH Ministry series. Be as simple as you can to mimic the content of the YTH Service setting in a PRACTICAL way.
Small Group is not another preaching service. It is discussive and relational. It must yield thinking and formation. The leader should only be vocal 50% of the time.
Keep in mind that a Small Group must be application-based. We are attempting to apply the principles of theology to teenage life. We are not telling students to ‘know God’. We are showing them HOW to ‘know God.’
What is Mandatory Reporting?
This is the term used to mandate or legislate community workers or YTH Leaders to report abuse of minors in various forms to the Child Welfare department. Every state has a set of laws for reporting. It is critical that you look these up for your state. There is a ‘State Statutes’ link that defines each state’s legislation. You can find those laws and the process of reporting at this website:
But, with that in mind, let me give you some general guidelines:
A community worker (in our case a YTH Leader) must report suspected abuse to children directly to the Child Welfare Department in local government offices. In most cases that is the CPS - Child Protective Services.
The screening of the incident is not to be done by a community worker (in our case a YTH Leader). The screening is done by CPS to determine its legitimacy.
If you are ever unsure, speak with your Lead Pastor and report to Child Welfare for screening. Depending on the situation, a person may make a confession to a religious leader and would not have to testify against them about the confession. But, child abuse is not protected information.
The assessment I have always began with is to communicate to teens that if they share information with me that I deem harmful to themselves or others, I have the responsibility to report this.
The culture of the YTH Ministry must be solution oriented and not completely confidential. There are clergy privileges, but, the YTH Pastor or worker is not a funnel for counseling that stops in his/her office or responsibility. Everyone must know that the YTH Leader will report in cases that require this.
Every Church must have a procedure of reporting that is clearly understood and communicated to the entire staff, directors, and board of the Church. This can be found by contacting the office of the Legal Counsel (Richard Hammer) of the General Council of the Assemblies of God.
Looking at the world of teens today, you can imagine the kind of conversations that are taking place regularly between teens and leaders. This is the world teenagers are growing up in:
64% of teens lose sleep and become depressed because they are too busy
77% of students feel physical, mental, or verbal abuse in high school
The third leading cause of death between the ages of 15-24 is suicide
1 in 3 girls is abused by a boyfriend, 1 in every 200 teens is doing self-harm, and almost 16 million students live in a home where a parent is physically abused
*mybrokenpalace.com and barna.com
This reality requires that we have a plan to not only protect the students (or adults) who report to us, but that we also protect ourselves and the Church. Ultimately, we are counseling to solve problems. That is best done within a completely supportive setting that sometimes requires reporting to professionals.
Comprehensive YTH Ministry
Effective YTH Ministry is comprehensive. Exhaustive. Each of these areas are critical to YTH Leadership success. And with this in mind, the responsibility of YTH Leaders today is incredibly important. Of the many responsibilities, among the most important is the sustainability of the Church in our society by making disciples of this Next Gen set.
And that is comprehensive in nature.