I love this commercial. It tells me that we can completely misunderstand how something works.
When it come to youth meetings and youth ministry I feel like saying, to just about everyone, “This is not how any of this works”. Or better still “This is not how discipleship works” . Although my kids need large events, preaching, and vision stretching moments, the weekly youth meeting, and I think you might agree, is not the best way to disciple kids. Many of my kids will not give me an extra night of the week for a small group, etc. so I have to look at the one meeting I do have and revamp it to get the kids I do have more involved.
Youth Meeting are pretty standard across the board but here’s what a meeting for us looks like:
– Opening Game or Activity
– Praise and Worship
– Altar Time
Those are the main pieces and part of our meetings with some derivations along the way. We started doing a Connection Night once a month where students get in small groups where adults and a few students do the Bible Study. That means I would preach three times a month and they would connect once a month in a small group.
This has worked really well but we can’t keep meeting like this and here’s why:
1. There are not enough opportunities for kids to lead
If you look at our meeting above there are some ways for kids to lead
- They do the game
- They can do the announcements
- They can do praise and worship
- They can preach
- They can pray with people at the altar
And our teens do all of these things sporadically through out the year. You may ask, “If it’s working Paul, why are you going to mess with it?” I am messing with it because I want our youth meetings to offer more than a task to those who nee meat and not milk. There are many of our kids who are past the task stage and need to move into the leading stage. Which leads to my second reason for messing with the meeting.
2. Students need the room to grow and mature
Tasks are a great beginning tool to help kids lead but the task is like tying your shoes, eventually you master that task and want to move on. I think about what the writer of Hebrews wrote to the believers at that time
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.… Hebrew 5:12
It’s entirely possible for kids to become “dull of hearing”when they hear the same voice over and over, a.k.a my big mouth. That’s why we are inverting the process where kids lead three weeks in a month and I preach once a month. This gives kids to chew on “the meat” of God’s word for themselves and then pass along the nutrients to their peers.
It’s also true that many of my students should be teachers by now passing along the truth to others but there is not currently a vehicle for them to get there; that’s why I’m building a custom vehicle for them. We have many tasks but not enough opportunities for our teens to do what God’s called some of them to do or the room to act on the vision God’s given them for this youth ministry.
One of the reasons I think many of our kids need “again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God” I believe, is because they never had a way to use what they were initially taught or for the gift God gave them. I like what Tom Schultz says in his article The Rise of the “Done With Church” Population.
“The Dones are fatigued of the Sunday routine of plop, pray, pay; they want to participate”
Teenagers can adopt and adapt early if we are creating a place for them to use what God has given them.
Whether a student can perform a task is not the best measurement of their spiritual growth unless we are giving them deeper tasks as they grow older. My hope is that changing the way we meet will produce kids who will never be satisfied with a task for the sake of my vision of the youth ministry but will hunger to share the vision God has put on their hearts for their youth ministry.
What is it about your meeting that is helping or hurting your kids?
What is one thing you would change about your youth meeting if you could?
For more articles on students led youth ministry check out these posts