Guest Post by Chris Wesley
If you were to ask a college-age student, “Who are you?” how do you think she would answer it? Let’s get a little more specific . . .
If you were to ask a college-age student who has come through your youth ministry, “Who are you?” would you be satisfied with her answer?
Would the student’s answer reflect some level of understanding that her identity is found in Christ? Even if the student didn’t answer with, “I’m a child of God,” to at least associate her identity with some type of godly characteristic would be proof of spiritual maturity.
It’s scary for me to think students from our ministries would pass through without forming a biblical understanding of their identity. But isn’t this happening in many instances? Can we guarantee that when our students graduate from high school they aren’t graduating from their faith?
If we want to lessen the odds of teens leaving the faith when they leave our ministries, we could certainly do a lot worse than taking a long look at the design of our ministries. We need to evaluate our purpose. With no purpose, our ministries often look like barely-controlled chaos.
So how do you “design” a ministry that helps facilitate spiritual transformation? That helps students develop a Christ-centered identity? That has a purpose in mind? You design it with:
These might be dictated by denomination, by your pastor, your own personal faith, or all of the above. You need to understand these “distinctives” of your faith. If you can list these, they’ll form the foundation of a clear and effective vision.
Once you’ve articulated your values, you’ll be able to design how it all fits together. Not only do you need vision for your ministry (i.e. how it’s runs), you need one for your teenagers (i.e. lifestyle choices).
If you build your ministry on a resource, your ministry will crumble. The computer replaced the typewriter, and we are constantly updating our computer software. It sounds cliché, but Christ is the foundation, and we use tools to build around it. So ask yourself, “Are the resources I use adaptable, transferable and replaceable?” If the answer is “yes,” then you’ll be able to adapt to the changing world around you.
On top of being built on Christ, ministries need relationships. When your teens are gone, they might not remember the game that involved the whip cream and popcorn. But what they will remember are the adults who poured into them. If you are the only adult in your ministry, start making it your priority to recruit more. I understand for many of us this is easier said than done, but it’s imperative.
In many ways, your students are a product of the ministry you design. So, are you happy with what you are seeing? Just because you do ministry in a church or with a church name doesn’t mean that it’s going to produce disciples. While there is certainly no guarantee, you can do your part to lay a great foundation in the lives of your students if you are intentional and focused on the ministry you are running.
So how do you design your ministry?
Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. With over 6 years of youth ministry experience you can read more about his journey on his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.