I think that it is only natural that as I consider my future in youth ministry, I am constantly wondering what my program will look like. I’ve seen a lot of different setups, some of which I have enjoyed more than others
Obviously what I do specifically—how things will be set up, what areas will be emphasized, etc—will depend on many things, specifically, the number of youth, the philosophy of the church, the existing structure, the denomination, the church’s resources, the preferences of the youth, and more. But there are definitely a few things I know I want to see in one form or another.
Service: Mission trips, weekly service, and even intermittent service activities have vastly altered my perception of what it mans to follow Christ and to live His love. I have learned so much about His hands, myself, society in general, and individual people through volunteer opportunities. I really think it is important for high school students to enter into service as a way of broadening their view of humanity and shaking them out of their routine, stereotyped lives. I want to do service trips every summer, and hopefully monthly service in our community, whether at a consistent site or at different sites.
Prayer: Ideally, every youth activity would begin and end in prayer. Occasionally, though, I would love to introduce the youth to different ways to pray, such as Emmaus walks, the labyrinth, praying through art, fasting, examens, and more. I see prayer as a beautiful opportunity to listen to God’s voice and to discover new things about ourselves, although in high school I didn’t really understand it and was too easily distracted and not directed enough to utilize it.
Small Prayer Groups: Prayer is obviously a huge part of Christian tradition, and I really love the idea of creating small groups of five or six youth to get together outside of the normal youth group time to talk about their lives and pray for one another. Ideally, I would one young adult from the church as a leader for each group, especially at the beginning as they get used to opening up and holding each other accountable.
Discussions: One of my youth pastors in high school used to call them “round tables” whenever we would sit in a circle and discuss some sort of specified topic rather than hearing a particular message or doing small groups. I see immense value in allowing students to share their perspectives, in giving them a chance to discover new aspects of their faith for themselves, and in solidifying the bonds between them. This could be a bit risky—topics would have to be well-chosen, I would have to have a good introduction to the discussion and some solid questions as well, and I would have to find a balance between cutting them off too quickly when things got off topic and allowing them to go too far on circular or repetitive tangents. Yet it is so important to allow them to learn from and through each other. I might do this once a month
Guest Speakers: I am a big fan of expanding horizons, of opening people up to new perspectives, new ideas, and new ways of looking at familiar things. And I recognize that I need that as well. I love the idea of bringing people in to talk to my future youth. Not only does this give them a chance to view topics in different ways, but it also helps liven things up when my own talking get mundane for the youth. This summer I gave 5 talks each week, one per day, and I know that there were times when the youth got tired of hearing my voice. I tried to give the other staff a chance to share their stories as much as possible. I remember being incredulous when if found out that I was going to be the only one presenting messages. So I would love to bring in guest speakers, whether they are church members, friends or acquaintances of mine, or well-know speakers. I like that this could help raise awareness of different issues, solidify beliefs and perspectives (hopefully not in a way that creates close-mindedness, though), and allow youth to find common ground with vastly different people. I’m not saying I would bring in someone every week, but maybe every couple of months or so.
Mini-sermons: That said, I do want to have some straight-up teachings every once in a while. In high school it was helpful to hear about my youth pastors’ experiences and to learn more about what I believed. I don’t want to bore them by just lecturing every week, but on occasion I think it is important to share what I have learned and will continue to learn.
Games: It might not be the most important thing, as far as changing hearts and lives, but I have so many great memories of playing games at youth group. They really bring people together, get them out of their comfort zones, and build community. Toilet paper hockey was a big one at my church, and I still recall the feeling of victory and the joy of watching people unable to play because they were laughing too hard. Although I don’t want such activities to be the focal point of my ministry, I know how beneficial they can be to the group as a whole.
Other aspects will undoubtedly come into play and exactly how often and in what way I implement these ideas won’t be discernable until I am actually in a church and able to feel out their perspective and their expectation. Until then, it’s fun to dream about it.
Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.
Today I listen
And run toward.