No Crave this Friday but I thought I’d share with you something I wrote recently for the arrival of our new senior minister Tim Johnson. I hope you find it informative and helpful in your thinking about our youth group.
Youth Ministry Report – September 2013
I’ve been the Youth Minister at St. John’s for 9 months now and would like to share my perspective on where we’ve been and where we’re headed.
We started the year with 6 excellent leaders and two youth programs in place – Friday night events (now called ‘Crave’) and Sunday afternoon small groups. Given the small size of our team and some struggles from previous years we decided to not continue with small groups for the time being and focus all our energy on Friday nights (and the Sunday@6 service in partnership with its leadership team).
Crave’s motto for the last two years is as follows: Love God, Love People, Love Service. We hope that everyone who comes on a Friday night will catch this vision and start to live it out, all in response to God’s love for them.
During term 1 it became apparent that we needed to alter Friday nights a bit in order to compensate for the lack of weekly small groups. Small groups give youth a chance to talk through their questions and issues about faith and life in a safe and encouraging environment. We don’t want our youth to miss out on these valuable opportunities so we now will sometimes split into small groups during a Friday night event. We try and keep the youth and leaders in the group consistent across the whole year to allow relationships to build.
Relationships are at the heart of everything we do in youth ministry (and indeed church ministry). We want to help young people have the best possible relationship with God and the best possible relationships with each other (God has some great advice on how to do this). This is why we talk about Jesus Christ every single week. Sometimes we talk about him a lot, other times a shorter period, but we always talk about him. Why? Because without Jesus a relationship with God is unavailable and because he is the perfect example of sacrificial love and forgiveness – something vital for successful relationships generally.
There has been some debate around how fun fits into our youth ministry philosophy. I personally do not believe that talking about Jesus is, or needs to be, boring. I’m sure there have been conversations about Jesus throughout history that have been boring, but those should be the exception, not the rule. When we first brought more conversations into Friday night’s there was an adjustment period of a couple of months as our leaders got used to running discussions again. There are challenges in facilitating engaging conversations with young people that are generally less of an issue in all-adult groups and we needed some practise time to adapt. I feel that in term 3 we have found a nice balance in our program between fun activities/games, up front teaching, and relationship building conversations. We hope to keep improving at this in term 4.
Some people have noted that we don’t do some classic youth ministry events from the past (e.g. we have not gone ten pin bowling or to Dark Zone so far this year). I’d like to make it clear that we are not against these types of events at all; it’s just that when we meet as a team to decide our events for the term, relationships are central to our thinking. If an event idea does not help us achieve our vision then we either cross it off or see if we can change it to better facilitate achieving that vision. This approach is central to my youth ministry philosophy. We do not exist to help youth have a good time socializing with other Christians. We exist to share our faith with those who don’t believe and deepen the faith of those who do (and we try and have heaps of fun doing that). Not coincidentally, that is also the mission of our entire church: To know Christ and make him known. It’s a great mission and one I’m committed to into next year and beyond.
St. John’s Youth Minister