Reflection about past youth ministries is an invaluable exercise, especially when you include former and favorite and not so favorite students.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to ask former students (that were somewhat a part of our youth group) what they really thought about the youth ministry you lead?
I think it is fascinating to get a sideways perspective from former students since they heard all the talks, played all the games, experienced all the small groups, broke bread, got baptized, went to all the camps, and participated in all the service projects.
How could our former students help correct the way we did youth ministry? Should their thoughts even be considered?
When asking former students about their youth ministry experience, there are two reminders that will immediately pop up in your youth ministry brain.
Their answers will:
Reinforce the idea you still don’t have a clue—In fact, it may be really humbling knowing the real truth about what they thought about the youth ministry department and their youth pastor post high school. It is amazing what they can learn and experience once they leave youth group. You may be surprised or comforted by their responses. The more and more years I am in youth ministry, the more and more I realize I don’t know, especially when you talk to former students about their church experience and realize the many complexities to youth ministry. Polling our past students keeps us (youth pastors) in check—knowing that we didn’t always do a great job reaching out to students.
Give perspective—Asking former students will give you insight on God’s sovereignty and a sideways angle on what really is happening in your youth ministry. Seriously, God is in control of these kids’ lives. Our youth ministries will be in a teen’s life only for a season. It can be really exciting and disheartening talking to some of our former students post youth group for a variety of reasons, but I have been reminded that these students are God’s children. And we were called to just keep bringing them back to Jesus for them to receive the touch of Jesus. Some youth ministries are going to lose kids and others will get kids to keep their faith, but no matter what, your students are going to be OK. Former students have the ability to speak to the reality of what really can improve in youth group since they saw and heard it all. Know that our former students have our back, and they want to look out for us by speaking to the areas of our youth ministry we cannot see. They have knowledge we cannot get from anybody else besides them! So tap into them as a valuable resource.
So … I decided to run a little experiment. I decided to ask two of my former students what are some things they wished they told their youth pastor. I gave parameters that stated: Either tell me directly or generalize basic points youth pastors across the nation need to hear.
So I went to the land of milk and honey aka facebook and reconnected with two former students—Chase and Andrew. I asked them this question: What do you wish youth pastors knew about their students?