5 Traits Of Healthy YTH Ministry
Healthy YTH Ministry doesn’t just happen. It takes work. Here are five things that I have seen in healthy YTH Ministries.
1. Healthy YTH Leader
Healthy YTH Leaders create healthy YTH Ministries.
In order to be a healthy YTH Leader, we must be wiling to ask ourselves some probing questions. Let me pose a few tough questions for you to personally ask yourself. These questions will help you install a strong foundation in your life as a leader to this generation. Of course, the questions will only work if you are willing to be honest with yourself when you answer these.
Here are the 2 probing questions that lead to health that every YTH Leader should ask themselves:
Are you praying in the Spirit?
I believe this is one of the most important disciplines we can have in our spiritual life. And, this is not just for the Pentecostal crowd. This is a biblical truth. In 1 Corinthians 12-14 and in Romans 8, Paul lays out the importance of praying in the Spirit. In the Romans text he called this gift ‘groanings too deep for words.’ Literally assuring us that when we do not know how or what to pray, the Spirit fills in the blanks.
Get over the whole groaning issue. Or the verbal sound of groaning. All of us do it at sometime in our life. At a ball game as we shout in exhilaration. When we get cut off in traffic and scream unintelligibly. If we stub our toe in the middle of the night and muffle our response so that we do not wake anyone up. Or if we are frustrated and have no words.
So trust the Spirit of God and respond to His presence in your life by releasing your vocabulary to Him. It is a truth in scripture but must become a practice in life.
How are your spiritual disciplines?
Spiritual discipline is the key to spiritual authority and maturity. They are the evidence of our commitment to Christ. Let me list a few of these for you. Spending time in prayer, spending time in the Word, fasting on a regular basis, spending time in silence, giving, simplicity, and evangelism/sharing your faith.
These are the measurements and the assessment of our spiritual life. Not that these are works unto salvation. But they are the fruit of our salvation. The works of our response to His grace in our life. And these are the signs of a healthy spiritual leader. and these disciplines will result in a strong foundation in our ministry.
2/3. Recruiting and Retaining Adult & Student Leaders
Recruiting is one important task of a YTH Leader. But, equally important is the retention of our leaders. Let’s start with the recruiting. I believe if we recruit healthy leaders they will answer the retention issue. So, look for maturity in your prospects. This is what I would look for in a potential leader:
Great youth leaders will develop a personal lifestyle of worship and prayer
Great youth leaders value mentoring and find someone they are spiritually afraid of who will help keep them accountable in their life
Great youth leaders are teachable
Great youth leaders do not have to be perfect but they must be progressing
Great youth leaders do not underestimate the significance of Natural (communication, relationships, and skillsets) and Spiritual leadership (the disciplines)
As far as the retention part of recruiting leaders, we should focus upon leadership development. If quality leaders are leaving the Youth Team then that is a oversight issue most likely. What am I doing to prepare and build my leaders? How often do I meet with my leaders and do training or mentoring discussions? Here is an important question you should ask to increase retention of YTH Leaders:
Ask the right questions and get the right answers - Have you grown in your spiritual and natural giftings? If your leaders are not growing it is probably because you are not growing. A healthy YTH Leader will attract healthy YTH Leaders. And a healthy YTH Leader will grow healthy YTH Leaders.
Look at our student leadership development now. I’m not sure you can be a fully healthy YTH Ministry without developing student leaders.
I've heard people say that no one rises to a level above their leader. I don't agree with that at all. Let me tell you who will rise above their leader. A student who is gifted and hungry. Especially one who is more desperate and more hungry than the leader over them. If you are not attracting or retaining quality students you are declining in your gifts and competencies. Because these teens will end up somewhere else.
Student leaders create an accountability culture in the YTH Ministry. Here are a few ways to create a student leadership culture in your group:
Adult to Peer relationship (Asking adult leaders to mentor prospective students)
Peer to Peer relationships (Older students mentoring younger students)
Small group development for prospective student leaders - These can be called 'circles', 'huddles', 'crews', 'squads', or 'family'.
Outside involvement in para-church orgs (this creates leadership qualities)
Student spotlight in YTH Service (Allowing students to be seen and heard)
4. Neutral Site Context
We must do YTH Ministry outside of the Church. Otherwise we can create consumers and not producers. If everything we do is internal, we are telling our students that they serve God at the Church and not in their world. That is spiritual co-dependency!
Para-church organizational involvement is one way to do this. There are many ways to do this. But one of my favorite ways to create neutral site ministry is to encourage students to do FCA, Young Life, First Priority, Campus Life, etc. This connects them to another world outside of the Church. And it promotes unity in the body of Christ when they meet other students who are serving God.
The School Campus is another way. Many people have called the campus 'the last tribal stop' of our young people. The place where we find teenagers gathered together in sub-groups for the last time before adulthood. Think about it. Every teen sub-group in culture. Jocks, skaters, alts, brainiacs, emos, hip-hops, gamer's, or preps. All together. Maybe the final place the Church can reach these students with the gospel is on the school campus.
A sub-group is a distinctive set of people with similar styles, language, interests, and ways within the larger context of a society
I offer a few more ways to do neutral site ministry here: These ideas can be strategic starters to assuring that your Youth Ministry will have a voice on the local school campus. And the gospel will have an entrance into the lives of millions of students in our American schools.
Meet as a YTH Ministry at the Mall, the Airport, or the school for a YTH Service
The best way a Youth Ministry gets on campus is with campus missionaries (students)
Do small groups discipleship in homes or other settings and not the church
Make yourself available to the school for crisis counseling
Run for school board or other educational positions in government and local elections
Look to get involved in the myriad of extra-curricular activities at school
Find the Christian para-church organizations that are recognized clubs on campus and have a presence or leadership in those ventures
Send birthday cards to your students friends and faculty with Youth Ministry name on it
Use seasonal and holidays to attend concerts and plays
Have students wear Youth Ministry themed clothing and gear to familiarize the school with your YTH Ministry at events or daily at school
5. A Prayer Culture
I know students like to play. But they also like to pray. Learn to balance these. I do not want my students to say that they had a great time in YTH Ministry. But they never learned to pray. And they never learned the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Gifts of the Spirit, or the Fruit of the Spirit.
Our satisfaction as YTH Leaders should not be that we built an AMUSEMENT park. A place where students are in awe of us and the program. If all we are doing is trying to build a bigger and better roller coaster in YTH Ministry, at some point we are going to run out of money, and, the students will run out of interest. Their interest in spiritual formation will never run out. There is an endless supply of awe in Christ.
Our satisfaction as YTH Leaders should be that we built an ATTRACTION to Christ. If we fail to give them Jesus. We have simply become The Salvation Army, the YMCA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or the Peace Corps. We are the Church. And we have Jesus. The greatest story ever told.
Prayer is the key to healthy YTH Groups. As American YTH Ministry that is not popular. But, the examples of persistence in prayer are many. A look through the bible will support the importance of learning the idea of process-praying:
-Abraham pleads with God for Sodom…(Genesis 18:16)
-Hannah praying for years for a child…(1 Samuel 1)
-Elijah prays repeatedly 7 days for rain…(1 Kings 18:41/James 5:16)
-Nehemiah’s 4-month fasting and prayer before he went to the king…(Nehemiah 1:1-2:1)
-Intercessors on the wall who would not give God rest…(Isaiah 62)
-Daniel’s prayers that were day and night continually…(Daniel 10/11)
-Matthew records Jesus pleading with us to be incessant…(Matthew 7:7-11)
-Jesus in the garden before His death…(Mark 13)
-Persistence of a neighbor and his desire for help…(Luke 11:5-10)
-The widow and her wearying the judge for protection…(Luke 18:1-8)
-Paul asking for the deliverance of his “thorn”…(2 Corinthians 12)
-Paul’s incessant prayers for the church, his friends, etc…(Colossians 1:3)
-Peter and his stress upon the effectual praying of Elijah…(James 5:16)
One final word on this. A prayer culture is not just pre-service prayer. That is not sacrificial nor does that give us much time to develop a love for the Spirit or the work of the Spirit. Jesus said if we want a certain kind of ministry, prayer would do it. He said, "This kind only comes out through prayer and fasting." so, assign prayer partners in the YTH Ministry, and pair the students up and watch them grow. Or, schedule a YTH Prayer meeting weekly, monthly, etc to foster and teach the students how to pray.
Organized and intentional prayer will do more for a Youth Ministry than anything else. By far. Walking up the 'teeter-totter' of Youth Ministry can be scary. But, the closer we get to the fulcrum or the center-point, the easier the momentum becomes. Sooner than later, you are running downhill.
Evaluate your YTH Ministry with these analytics. And find a friend to go over these with. It will help you be honest and put work into not just the assessment, but, the solution.