As I interviewed for youth ministry positions across the country this past June, I was asked for many things. A picture of myself, and a resume were always required. Some churches required a statement of faith, which allowed them to learn more about my personal beliefs. Then one church asked for my Philosophy of Ministry. I had worked with a few different philosophies, and my basic vision had always revolved around outreach, but I needed to write something down that described the big building blocks of a full and working youth discipleship engine. The following is what I came up with as I researched many of the philosophies I’d worked with in the past, as well as looking up the philosophies of some of my friends and talking with them on their thoughts.
Take a moment to read, and let me know what you think if you’ve worked in youth ministry, or have ever ministered to the middle and high school ages.
Philosophy of Youth Ministry
The purpose of youth ministry is to grow life long disciples of Christ.
Youth Ministry is:
(1) Theological/Discipling (Matthew 28:18-20)
We need to encourage reflection on God’s work in the world (past, present, and future) and help students to live engulfed in God’s Word.
A) Proclamation of Gospel in Youth Services and One on One Relationships
B) Education in Biblical Literacy in Small Groups and One on One Relationships
C) Cheering on growth in Personal Devotion to God
D) Celebration of God’s work in Worship through Arts and Communications
E) Constant challenges to reach out and live in Obedience (Great Commission)
(ex. outreach/inreach, missions, service project)
*This all happens in the context of fellowship/community and as youth are
discipled, they are encouraged to take part in the life of the larger church context.
(2) Relational/Incarnational/Contextualized (John 1:14)
Students need to be met where they are at, whether at the Ball Park, the schoolyard, at the mall, home, or in church. Youth have a unique perspective on life because they occupy a unique space. By understanding this and spending time with them, we minister to them more effectively.
A) Stories are listened to (Background stories are essential)
Basic Questions of Youth Ministry (See Dean Borgman’s “When Kumbaya is Not Enough”):
1) Where have you been?
2) Where are you now?
3) Where do you need to go/grow?
4) How can I help you get there?
B) Their environments are experienced (sports games, mall courts, skate parks)
C) Triumphs and Tragedies are celebrated and processed
D) Homes are visited and Life Situations are known
E) Understanding of the specific Questions Youth are asking of life as they learn
F) Their media (tech) and communication methods are understood/interacted with
(3) Family Centered/Repairing/Equipping (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16)
Living in a broken world is not easy, and as family systems break down and adults abandon children and teens, youth ministry needs to help encourage and build whatever family a student has. Some will have full functioning families and not even know it, so the youth worker must respect the family and work with them to take part in their families even as society tells them to separate or wholly rebel.
A) Educates and provides resources to parents of teens
B) Encourages parents who are stressed or despairing
C) Connects parents to one another to provide support
D) Challenges parents to serve in the youth ministry
E) Communicates effectively the events, growth, and life of the youth
*A Parent Council helps steer the ministry, and provide wisdom/support
(4) Life Enabling/Counseling (John 13:34-35)
The Youth Ministry can be a healing presence in the community as it represents Christ and prays for the many it reaches out to. Many will come to Christ and will have individual hurts because our world is often so broken and will be in need of an ear to hear. Simply by caring and listening to one another, and by teaching this to youth, we can establish a community of care. Most adolescent issues can be dealt with in one or two meetings, and it is good to know our limits and when to refer to a physician or professional counselor.
(5) Team Based (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)
Love is spelled T-I-M-E, and it takes a lot of it to build a relationship with a student and more to walk with them in faith. Because of this, it is impossible for one Youth Worker/Leader/Pastor to reach out to all the students deeply, and simultaneously. Because of this, the Leader must build and equip a confident team of youth professionals, who have a passion to reach and care for the youth in their church and greater communities.
A good team (not including paid staff) is composed of:
A) Relational Leaders of many ages and interests
ex. a Grandfather figure, a cool young couple, etc.
B) Support Volunteers (Parents/Servants)
ex. check in parents, food preparers, setup teams, etc.
C) Student Leaders (w/certain responsibilities)
ex. testimonies, worship, outreach, etc.
Youth Ministry Simply Put: Students need a good foundation to sit on, and each mature Christian relationship is a peg in their stool. Their parents usually provide two strong pegs, and the youth minister can be a third peg that shows the student that people outside the family can be strong Christ followers. In cases where families are breaking apart, more support from the church and the youth ministry help stabilize youth and show them through the church how much Christ loves them and cares for them as one body working together. They are then enabled to share that love with even more people.
There it is at this point. I’m sure I forgot something. What is it?