OK, given that this website is all about resourcing a “Bible Focus” type of youth ministry (from these 3 choices), we’re going to follow the process for starting up a model for this type of youth ministry from scratch. (Haven’t yet thought about what type of youth ministry you want to start? click here)
The aims of a “Bible Focus” type of youth ministry are:
- To teach & study the Bible
- Be a Christian community
- Live out the values of Jesus
- Engage real life with real Jesus
- Be a counter cultural experience (a glimpse of heaven even!)
You do this type of youth ministry because you want kids to know and trust Jesus & adopt his values; you believe this can only happen by God’s Word; because you want kids to “do life” with Jesus.
Your first step then is to recruit some leaders who can commit to sharing the Bible with passion and creativity and who are not skeptical that the word of God is powerful to change lives. You really need to start with a good group of commited leaders – this is crucial! When choosing leaders remember that “Youth leader” does NOT mean “Young Leader”. In fact, the Christian people in your church who are post-kids (probably in their 40’s + ) are possibly your best leaders. They don’t need to be “young and hip” (their out-of-touch character probably makes them cooler). Your older leaders will provide stability, experience, Christian maturity and a wealth of perspective on young people – especially if they’ve already raised their own!
Make sure you give your prospective leaders clear expectations of what being a youth leader involves. Here is an example.
Priority #1: Once you have recruited your leaders and got together a team, your first priority is to make sure you look after them.
Youth leaders are the engine room of any youth ministry large or small, be it of 6 young people or 600. The value of unity and sustainability in your youth leadership team cannot be underestimated. You want a team of leaders that works together, loves each other, is committed to each other, and can sustain an enjoyment of youth ministry that will last the next 20 years. The average turnover for a youth minister or leader is something like 2 years (someone have the exact stats?) and you wonder at the damage inconsistency like that causes… A lesson worth knowing is that even the most average youth minister/leader can do extraordinary things over enough time (or extraordinary damage with the wrong foundations!), so choose the right leaders and hang on to them for the long haul. A stint of 6 years, seeing a group of new high schoolers (year 7) through to the end (year 12), should be the bare minimum.
How do you look after your youth leaders?
- Design a “good enough” year program so your leaders know what’s happening and when. (Year program is not just about what’s on & when, but more about planning what you’ll be teaching throughout the year. Think strategically about your teaching series for the year. Here are some ones I’ve used.
- Keep their role clear (ie. keep to the “leaders expectations” document).
- Each term, give them a current term program that is more specific than the year program. Here are some examples. If you use the resources on this site, then putting together the term program doesn’t have to be a committee process (tedious!), because each week you do at least the same 5 things: (More on this in Part 4: Structuring the main Youth Group Gathering)
- Interactive Bible teaching
- Prayer time
- Sharing time
- An activity that helps them know God or their peers better (or both!)
- And Supper
You just do these same things in different ways each week. In that way the program has the safety of familiarity and the excitement of the unknown by being predictably unpredictable for your young people. So just do the term program yourself or nominate 1 person on your team to do the term program for everyone.
- Schedule leader’s meetings often enough that you are able to keep good communication, but not so often they become meaningless and burdensome.
- Plan the agenda of your meetings so they don’t go overtime and they stay on track.
- Train them and/or be trained together.
- As far as you are able, don’t schedule things in holidays. Give your leaders 2 weeks rest each term.
- Do some social things together. Have dinner, watch a movie, a live-in for a week (!), a retreat, whatever…