Youth Ministry in a Time of Urgency Part 2: Resources

At this point, many of us have had a couple of days to think through how we’re going to adjust our normal gathering times. I know that Wednesdays are a popular time for student ministries. At my church, Wednesday night is our main worship gathering. As we are considering how to find new ways to accomplish the purposes of this gathering, I wanted to take some time today to compile some of the resources I’ve been looking at to help make decisions for my group.

If you don’t know where to start, I would encourage you to start here. Doug Fields and his team at Download Youth Ministry created this webpage last Friday, and they’ve been updating it with a steady stream of resources ever since. There are free interactive games, social media graphics to help you interact with students, and even lessons you can use in a pinch. You can also check out their blog post with great ideas here.

This video is from a gaming perspective, I believe; however, the principles still apply. His explanation is clear, and the software he discusses is completely free. If you’re looking to start with YouTube streaming, watch this video! (As a side note, we’re looking at streaming on YouTube this evening, so I’ll share more about how it goes and why we chose this platform tomorrow.)

So, how does all of this play out on the most practical level? I’ve attached the link to our Covid-19 page on our church website. Here, we’re updating our people on the latest information regarding service times and posting resources for families to use in their homes. This page is going to be updated often, so feel free to check back from time to time to see how our strategy changes.

What about you? What resources have you found useful? Feel free to share them below! Remember, we’re in this together!

Youth Ministry in a Time of Urgency Part 1: Communication

“We’re in uncharted waters,” many have said, describing our current situation. I think this phrase is an understatement in many ways. I’ve spent most of my day sending out emails and in meetings trying to figure out how to do ministry as the recommendations for the number of people who can gather together become less and less.

My heart behind this series is to try to create a few small resources to help my fellow youth workers as we walk through this together. Once again, this is not only a chance to streamline my thoughts into something more coherent, but to help give you things to consider as you seek to lead your student ministry through this crisis.

Which leads me to my first reminder: communicate! Our schedules are anything but normal right now. In fact, I just had two weeks worth of planning wiped away in the blink of an eye, but that’s okay! With new information coming out every hour, we need to be on top of our game as well. Find ways to communicate with parents and workers the changes ahead. Consider finding time each and every day to update everyone you work with. Give them a clear plan of what’s ahead and clear ways for them to participate. We may be separated, but that doesn’t mean our ministries are on hold. I’ll share more about how I’m adjusting my plan in the week ahead, but first- let me share my parent email from today. I hope this helps give you some ideas about what to consider when communicating with parents, and maybe even gives you some ideas for your ministry.

Hey Parents,

This week’s update looks a little different, considering everything that’s happening right now around the world. Before I get into the details of how we’ll be adjusting some things in the ministry, I just want to encourage you all with this truth: Jesus is still Lord of all. It’s incredible to me how I’ve been challenged to grow in my faith in the last week as all of this has started to unfold. If I’m honest, I’ve found myself living as if Jesus wasn’t Lord at different points in the last few days. However, this is an opportunity for me to be reminded of the truth I’ve been teaching in Colossians for the last two months: Jesus is Lord. No virus can challenge the authority and sovereignty of our risen King. As one of my favorite songs, In Christ Alone says: “No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand; ‘Til He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.” And one more word of encouragement, this time from Martin Luther: “The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.” 

What follows is some details regarding the plan of student ministry in the next couple of weeks:

What will student ministry look like going forward? All of our normal gatherings and activities are postponed for now. We won’t be meeting on Wednesday Nights or on Sunday Mornings for Bible Study. In its place, we’re going to be planning strategic times where we can come together for a time of teaching. Tomorrow night at 6:30pm, we’ll be hosting a YouTube Livestream called Youth Night Live. This Livestream will be on our church’s YouTube page. I want to encourage you to join your students and interact via the comment section. My hope is to still make this as interactive as possible, even though I’ll be sharing via video. 

What about youth events? As of right now, we are going to pause all youth events for the student ministry. Since the goal is to keep people at home as much as possible, we’re going to keep things down to a minimum. However, we will continue with summer camp as originally planned. LifeWay has said they will give communication to all youth leaders the moment any details regarding Fuge Camps changes. As soon as any adjustments need made to our summer plans, I will be sure to let you know.

What can we do as a family during this time? My heart for student ministry is to partner with parents in the discipleship of their students. In many ways, having this season where we cannot gather as we normally would reminds us of the importance of family discipleship. The formation of our teens comes down to parents discipling their kids. I want to do everything I can to help make this task as easy as possible. This is why I’m hosting Youth Night Live on Wednesday night, and it is also why I’ll be sending resources to help you encourage your students to spend time in the Word and in prayer. I’ll also be providing questions to go along with tomorrow night’s devotion. I understand how this task can be seen as daunting- but it is possible. I will be available to you for whatever you need. Let me encourage you to redeem this time! We can do this together! 

How can we stay in touch? Please feel free to text, call, or email me. In addition, I want to strongly encourage all of you to download our church communication app and make a profile, if you haven’t already. From the app, you can interact with my updates, communicate with me via chat, and it’s all streamlined in one place for your convenience. Let me know if you have any questions about setting it up!

Be a Leader Who Equips Leaders

One of the ways I’ve framed human sinfulness is rooted in answering this question: Whose name will I seek to make great? The Bible is clear that the root of our sinfulness is a desire to elevate our own name above God’s. This temptation hasn’t changed since the garden when Adam and Eve ate the fruit while listening to the voice of the Serpent who told them they would be “like God” (Genesis 3:5).

We see this same desire to make a name for ourselves show itself in the desire to handle things on our own. The nature of the call we’ve been given by Christ is to multiply and “make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20) of the gospel. As a student minister, my job is not only to preach the gospel, but to partner with parents in training their kids up that they might lead the way in multiplying this gospel as they are going to the neighborhoods and nations.

It’s impossible to properly fulfill the job of discipling others if we aren’t using our position of leadership to multiply leaders. For adult leaders, these roles look like small group leaders, prayer partners, and chaperones for trips. For students, it means giving them appropriate opportunities to help shape the culture of the student ministry, helping them see where they are gifted, and then helping them use the gifts the Lord has given them.

Here are three reasons why you should be a leader who equips leaders:

1) Because You Won’t Always Be the Youth Pastor

Even though I just started my position at my current church six months ago, I do try to keep this thought in the back of my mind. It’s not because I always have one foot out the door. Instead, it’s rooted in the reminder that this ministry is a part of a bigger reality: an eternal mission of God for the nations of the world. If I really believe this is true, I have to minister with the end goal in mind for everyone involved in my ministry. This means I need to be serving in such a way that I’m not winning people to my style or preference, but I’m winning them to the Savior who never changes.

Many of us focus in so closely on the weekly details and lose sight of the bigger picture. When the Lord does call us to transition to a new role, we end up leaving without anyone else knowing the practical ins and outs of how we handled the ministry or why we did the specific events in the first place.

In many ways, to be faithful to the ministry is to always be working ourselves out of a job. We need to be training others to understand what it looks like to disciple others. To serve well means that when we leave, we aren’t leaving a huge hole where we were; it means that the ministry continues going seamlessly, as if we were never there.

2) Because Students Need to Hear from Other Adults

I’m passionate about helping teenagers understand their role in the church. I strongly believe that we are doing ourselves a disservice when we separate out our student ministries and never involve them in the programming of the church as a whole (I imagine this topic alone could be a series of posts). One of the ways we can help cultivate an understanding of this reality is by having different trusted voices from within the church speak into their lives.

While this includes times of teaching through the Word during the week and having guest speakers on annual youth trips, I’m also talking using my role as the student pastor to create more opportunities for adults to create meaningful and intentional connections with students. For this to happen, these adults need the chance to lead- whether in small groups, games, annual events, or in other places your ministry may have.

Creating an atmosphere where students are hearing the same truth from multiple voices helps them relate their faith to a community instead of a personality. When they leave the student ministry and move on to college, instead of looking for someone just like their student pastor, they’re looking for a community which teaches the same truths they’ve heard for many years. They need to know how faith in the gospel is not only lived out alone, but in the context of community. Multiplying leaders is a clear example of this truth.

3) Because Ministry is Easier on a Team

I share this point knowing that in one sense, ministry is never necessarily “easy”. As a pastor, we walk with students through some of the hardest and darkest times of their life, in order to be a physical reminder of God’s presence. Yet, I think there’s truth to the fact that when we multiply leaders, it frees us to be more present in those moments.

Picture the difference between being responsible for every aspect of a ministry, down to the most minute details: games, music, and lesson for the youth worship service, planning monthly events (with all of the finances, the sign-ups, and the scheduling), planning yearly trips, fundraising, other outside ministry opportunities, outreach into the community, service projects, and the other roles with the rest of the church staff. It’s easy to see how time can easily be absorbed in those things, with no time to spare for the chance to be present with students.

Now imagine if you have the opportunity to train up people to help with some of those roles. Suddenly, you only have to worry about a lesson for the youth service. Maybe a couple of parents or other volunteers have been trained up to lead the way in fundraising. Outreach events are now planned through small group leaders you’ve trained, in addition to the service projects for the students. Suddenly, the work load is nearly halved, meaning that you can put your time into one of the most important aspects of the job: relationships.

The reality is that in ministry, we don’t need more people trying to play the hero. We shouldn’t be seeking to make a name for ourselves. Instead, we should see ourselves as players in an eternal mission of God for the nations of the world. When we understand this, we’ll see the benefit in being a leader who equips leaders.

This Week’s Top Three (February 12, 2020)

Seth Stewart absolutely hits the nail on the head with this article. This is a powerful reminder of why I do what I do. This quote says it so well: “I love student ministry because while our culture has so little hope for the next generation, God’s hope for them and his plan for them has no limits.” If you’re working with students, are raising students, or care about the students in your church, this article is well worth your time.

Ray Ortlund gives a powerful reminder about staying faithful for the long term in ministry. This idea has been on my mind for some time now, especially since I’ve started my first full-time ministry position. I want to be faithful. I want to stay and learn. I want to grow and use what God gives me to establish strong foundations for students. This article makes me want those things even more.

Have you ever met a High School Senior who still didn’t know what he or she wanted to do with her life? Have you ever wondered what has caused such a trend? John Basie begins an excellent evaluation of the ever growing job market in this article.

This Week’s Top Three (February 5th, 2020)

This week’s top three is going to be quick- moving the students upstairs has made life CRAZY this week. Here we go:

One of the most beautiful things to come out of remembering Kobe Bryant was the stories that were shared about his joy in being the father to girls. One of those stories went viral and caused others to begin to share their stories, thus causing this hashtag to trend last week. Micah Fries shares from his experience in this heartfelt article.

I was doing some research on a new doorbell for our house when I came across this article from Chris Martin. One of my favorite parts of what he writes is how he gets to the heart of the issue so quickly: “According to the FBI and Pew, violent crime decreased by over 50% in the last couple of decades…Yet we are more afraid than we have ever been.”

In this highly enlightening op-ed piece from Youth Pastor Evan “Baller” Branson- I can’t even finish that sentence seriously. I’ve been waiting for the right time to share a Babylon Bee article, and this one had me rolling. It’s a good time for a good laugh. Thanks, Bee.