My buddy Brian Aaby helped provide the inspiration for this blog post. Coincidentally, it is a question I have been pondering since I got out of full time Youth Ministry in the local church.
Given the opportunity to do it all over again, what would I do differently?
There is not one easy answer to this question. In fact, the longer I give thought to this question the more answers I’m able to come up with. But I don’t want to bore you or write one of those blogs that seems to never end so I have fashioned my answers in a ‘Top 10 List’ format.
10) I wouldn’t bother with putting video games in the Youth Room. This goes beyond vidoe games. I think they can be distracting and at the end of the day they don’t have anything to do with being effective in reaching teens and introducing them to the transformational power of the Gospel. I’m all for being relevant, but I don’t see how a half-dozen flat screens and video game units help teens understand that I care for them and that the God of the universe is concerned with their soul.
9) Less time in the office, more time with teens in their worlds. Understanding how critical relationships are in ministry I would take advantage of every opportunity to invest in the lives of teens at school and extra curricular events instead of chilling in an 8×10 room. I’m in Youth Ministry not prison.
8 ) I would involve parents from the start. I actually wrote a blog article on this a few weeks ago. Check it out for mroe details on this one.
7) Small groups. The spirit behind this one is community and relationships. Diving into the “how to” of Youth Ministry a major aspect of my ministry would be small groups. I hear more and more amazing stories from Youth Leaders who have teens meeting in homes based on geography and gender and I absolutely love it. Discipleship is accelerated in smaller community settings.
6) Emphasize spiritual disciplines to enhance their relationship with Jesus. Too often spiritual disciplines come across as some legalistic checklist to make sure I’m doing Christianity the right way. I would want to communicate to teens that reading their Bibles, praying, sharing their faith, giving, etc. are for their benefit as they grow in Christ, not something they need to feel obligated to do. God cares about their hearts and their lives, not their spiritual chore chart.
5) View every Youth Group meeting as an opportunity to moblize my teens. I may be alone in this but on several occasions I booted my lesson plan to take teens to McDonald’s to hang out when I felt that enough teens hadn’t shown up. What a loser I was!!! I’m all for doing life with teens at a McDonald’s, but I will never again waste an opportunity to pour into their lives and mobilize them to live lives on mission for God.
4) Prayer as a priority. There is no such thing as too much prayer. Considering God has entrusted us with caring for the teenagers in our ministries I’d say we don’t have the luxury to miss any opportunity to pray for them, their families, and their lost friends!
3) Tie everything back to the Gospel. Every sermon I preach, every lesson I teach, every trip we would take, every activity we do, it all comes back to the cross. To paraphrase Spurgeon, “Whatever text you’re preaching [ whatever you’re doing], make a bee-line to the Cross.”
2) Rely on God and the Gospel to transform lives. A little point of tension here in my own life as I deeply care for the teens God has placed in my life, however I can’t save them. I can’t change them. I can’t make their decisions for them. I need to not concern myself with the job of the Holy Spirit in their lives and just preach the Gospel to them, doing what I can to guide and influence them, but trusting God to do His part through the power of His Gospel!
1) Focus on one purpose: making disciples. Anything and everything I would do in Youth Ministry would be measured by its impact to accomplish this one thing. The goal of everything I would pray for and do would be to make disciples of those teenagers and pass on to them that same objective, to make disciples.
What would you do if you got to start all over again?