What does it take to cultivate a thriving youth ministry in 2020? We’ve explored this question in depth this month.
Throughout the month, we’ve discussed several time-tested principles that build thriving youth ministries. We’ve looked at one principle each week, digging into how this principle can be applied right now, even in the midst of changing methods and uncertain times.
Today we’ll look at the fourth, and final principle in this series.
Principle 4: REPRODUCIBLE
Empowering young people
What difference does my faith make? This is a question young people, and many adults, wrestle with–especially in a world torn by fear, hate, hurt, and loss. We need hope, and we need to know that we have a purpose within that hope.
Today’s young people are especially hungry for purpose as they explore who they are, what they want, and what their place is in this world. They need to be empowered with purpose for their lives, their communities, their world, and their future.
Thriving youth ministries invite students into the mission of seeing God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. They engage students on the frontlines and empower them to make a difference.
Most of us can look back on our own faith journey and remember someone who saw something in us and helped push us toward our potential. Consequently, your faith grew and produced fruit. You learned you had a unique contribution to make and, through that, you saw God do incredible things in you and in the world around you.
A good mentor or youth leader fans into life the sparks of passion and purpose that are already present in the young people around them. They create space for their students to lead and shine. They don’t try to control or micromanage, they openly send their students out.
We see this modeled for us in Luke 10, when Jesus sends his disciples ahead of him in groups of two to prepare the way. He blesses them and invites them to join in the work that he’s doing in the world.
The difference between those who truly empower others and those who like the idea of empowering is, again, about making space. We must be willing to make space for the relational investment required. We must be willing to give away authority rather than clutching it tightly to our chests.
Again, Jesus models this for us when he empowers his disciples to do as he has been doing and when he tells them, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Even with every right to do so, Jesus didn’t hold onto power, he shared it.
Thriving youth ministries listen to their youth and let them lead. It isn’t enough to fill slots on a team, or fill gaps with young people, we need to share in the mission together.
This feels risky. And, in fact, it is risky to allow young people to step up and lead. But, it’s a risk that’s worth taking.
We want to end by sharing a story with you about Ewen in Pincher Creek. Ewen is a senior in high school who participated in Alpha when he was younger, but he noticed that there weren’t a lot of non-Christians there. People were afraid to invite their non-Christian friends. Because of this, Ewen took some initiative in his senior year and decided to start his own Alpha.
He printed out little pocket-size fliers and personally invited everyone in his high school, being sure to tell them there would be free food. The first night 15 people showed up. The next week more than 20 checked it out, and it just kept growing. Ewen’s classmates started coming to know Jesus. Lives were changed because he said yes and was empowered with the resources and support he needed to step up and start.
When we invite and empower youth into the mission of God’s kingdom with us, we create youth ministries that will thrive and grow for years to come, despite challenges like those we’ve experienced in 2020.
The Alpha Youth Series can help you create a space of listening, connection, and student empowerment. Learn how here.
This is the final entry in a series of four blog posts sharing core principles of reaching youth in a tumultuous time. Read the previous posts here: