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Transformational Youth Ministry

by Theresa Mazza

I’ve never felt more passionate about loving students than I do today. I count it an honor to be a part of Gods team as he transforms the most typical teen into an unbelievably spiritually aware teen.

Typical teens figure out how to survive each day- there may be no victories, no failures, but they’ve mastered the art of getting from one day to the next. Aware teens take notice of the day, recognizing the opportunities the gift of that day brings, even through disappointment. Aware teens look for lessons through hurt, anger, pain, and need. They are students of hope, mercy, forgiveness, and kindness. This kind of awareness only comes through the transformational love of God.

As a youth worker, I’ve made it my mission to serve, and cheer students on as God does his transformative work in their life. I love how God takes ordinary people and changes the world. I also love that he takes the most typical teen, and through his great love, transforms them into agents of his glory.

God transforms the heart and life of a teen. We serve, cheer, coach, and support as…

People of prayer

Several teens in my youth group were struggling with the use of drugs. I was worried. I had meeting after meeting with parents, interventions with students, and in a moment of desperation I decided to pray. I should have started with prayer. I printed out the names of students in my youth ministry and taped them all over my office walls.

Every time I entered my office I got on my knees and prayed for each of them by name. I was desperate for God to do his transformative work. One by one these students began facing the issue and seeking help. Prayers were being answered. I will never underestimate the power of prayer in youth ministry.

Servant leaders

To participate fully in the transformation of teens, it requires more than facilitating the logistics of youth ministry. We must serve and invest in every student in our group. The success of a smiling, participating, pleasant youth group was once so rewarding to me. Every well-planned youth service and trip put me on the mountaintop. But then something happened. My youth leaders and I started talking to individual teens. We listed students by name and assigned them to a leader.

Their names were not scratched of the list until an adult had invested one on one time with them. We did this over and over again. Many of these engagements turned into mentoring relationships. Once we learned to take the initiative, and began learning the needs of each individual student, we could serve each of them with new meaning and purpose. We discovered that our happy youth group was dealing with depression, abandonment, sexually addiction, and more. We now knew how we could serve. If a family needed a car, we knew about it. If a student needed counseling we knew about it. If a student needed affirmation, we knew about it. We were serving and respond to the hurts and needs of our teens.

Influencers

The godly influence of a loving adult in the life of a teen has huge impact. The things we model for our students will be the biggest lesson they remember. Teens not only do what we say, they do what we do. They are learning from our example. Are we patient, kind, loving, gracious, giving, and authentic? Or are we tense, hurt, bitter, frustrated, busy, and disingenuous? They may forget all about your theme from summer camp 2012, but they won’t forget you.

How has God’s transformational work in the life of a teen blown your socks off? How have you and your team participated in that transformation? 

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jgriffin@churchleaders.com'
Josh Griffin is high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co-counder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com and host of the Youth Ministry Garage Podcast. He's authored more than 20 youth ministry resources and is the author of "99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders" with Doug Fields. Josh is a father of 4 who speaks a little, podcasts a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot. You can find him at DownloadYouthMinistry.com!