Starting to think purposefully about youth work

Starting to think purposefully about youth work: how can we meet the needs of young people? What can we do to connect? Here’s some useful advice from Doug Fields…
  Health Before Hype: Programmes alone don’t work – God works. As we submit our lives and abilities to God’s power for the work of youth ministry, we can hold on to the promise that His power is available to us: “For to be sure, he (Jesus Christ) was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you (others)” 2 Cor. 13:4 The power of God working in the lives of leaders is the foundation of a healthy youth ministry. Placing a higher priority on being rather than doing can strengthen our work with young people. Vision: What is the vision you have for your youth ministry? If you aim at nothing then that’s all you’ll hit! In youth ministry it is good to know why you are doing what you are doing. There is no point in even starting the simplest task if you are not sure it will help the young people towards the place that you want them to go. Ultimately you need to pray, think and articulate where you hope that the young people will end up as a result of the ministry with them. What will your ministry produce? Values: What values underpin the ministry you have? Doug Fields states that there are five common areas:
  • Evangelism – Sharing the “Good News of Jesus” with others
  • Fellowship – Coming together to share and care for one another with Christ at the centre of relationship
  • Worship – Showing love to God through prayer, singing, poetry, dancing, giving offerings, testimony, and other activities
  • Discipleship – Discovering how to live a life that pleases God
  • Ministry – Helping God’s people in the community and the world
If you are able to minister in all these areas in the lives of young people across a range of programmes and activities then there will be some balance and progression in what you provide.There may be other values you have when working with young people – in my mind the simpler they are the better it is! Purposeful Programme: Young people in and around church communities are at different places in their walk with Jesus. Some are very committed and others are not. We cannot assume that one type of activity or programme will be suitable for all young people. Activities and programmes should reflect where young people are at in their walk with Christ with the hope of moving them on. Please note this is not a prescriptive tool but it is designed to help us think about how our activities meet the needs of young people. The following chart developed by Doug Fields helps identify the potential audience of young people within and outside our church. circles
  • A COMMUNITY young person is committed to not attending church – they are living apart from Christ.
  • A CROWD young person is committed to attending youth group – they are hearing about Christ.
  • A CONGREGATION young person attends a regular church worship service – they have a relationship with Christ and other Christians.
  • A COMMITTED young person is committed to spiritual habits – they are growing in Christ.
  • A CORE young person is committed to doing ministry – they are serving because of Christ.
If we use the above model and match them with the vision and values of youth ministry it follows that the following can apply:
  • A community young person will need to be reached through a programme or activity that is focused on evangelism.
  • A crowd young person will be served by an activity that facilitates fellowship
  • A congregation young person will be worshipping as part of a community
  • A committed young person will be involved in activities or relationships that are focused on discipleship
  • A core young person will be seeking to serve in appropriate structures.
At each stage young people should have the opportunity to move towards the centre. In this way it is hoped that there is some progression and balance in the activities that you provide. N.B Not all young people will fall neatly into one category! The aim of the model is to focus the purpose/aim of what is done with young people. Questions:
  • What is the direction and vision for the youth ministry in your church?
    • What do you hope young people will gain from it?
    • Is what you want, what you get?
  • Think about what programmes and groups you run at your church.
    • Which values characterise them?
    • Are there any values missing? Why?
  • Think about where the young people who you minister to are in terms of the purpose of the programmes and groups you run at your church
    • With which group do you work the most?
    • With which group do you not work with?
  • What areas of your youth ministry would you like to:
    • Change
    • Maintain
    • Close
  • What resources and other challenges to you face trying to do the above?
  • Try putting together a strategy for your youth ministry:
    • What are your priorities?
    • What are your long term goals.
(Most of this material is drawn from the brilliant Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields)

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