If you chose the “Bible Focus” youth ministry model based on your theology, values and principles (part 1), and you’ve recruited the right leaders and have the systems in place to look after them (part 2), then here is step 3: look after your families!
If you’re wondering why this is the next step, it’s because this type of ministry (in fact all youth ministry) is based on these 3 foundations:
Firstly, young people are people. You don’t do youth ministry because you have a passion (“a heart for”) young people but because you have a passion for people. Youth is a temporary phase of life, and we must love people regardless of age, as children, adolescents, and adults. Youth ministry begins much earlier than adolescence and endures far beyond the teenage years.
Secondly, young people come attached with families. To think that youth ministry is just about teaching and engaging with young people is a focus too narrow. Ministry to young people must include ministry to their parents and the family unit as a whole in whatever form it comes (eg. As a single parent family, foster family, adopted family etc).
Thirdly, the youth minister/leader does not replace the role of the parents in raising their children in the Christian faith, as if the teaching and instruction of children is sub-contracted to the youth minister/leader. The role of the youth minister/leader is to partner with parents and aid them in their responsibility by modelling godly living, teaching the Bible, and training young people to act rightly. This even applies to young people with non-christian parents, who even though they’re obviously not raising their children in the Christian faith are still responsible for it, something that by the grace of God they will come to understand as they hear the gospel (ironically, probably through their children).
This is why looking after the families of your young people is the next step before anything else.
(for a well argued view of families and youth ministry read “Perspectives on Family Ministry” by Timothy Paul Jones)
So how do you care for the families of your young people?
- Each term, give the parents a version of your term program that outlines the basics: what you’re teaching, what you’re doing, where you’re doing it and when. They should know what they’re sending their kids to.
- If the group is small enough and you’ve got the time, hand deliver the programs each term and visit the parents for a chat.
- Communication with parents is paramount!
- A tip I learnt early on is to address anything sent by mail to the parents and not the young person. Young people sometimes forget to pass on things to their parents (ever seen teenager leave a note from school in their bag? Ah ha). Send it to the parents and they can pass on the info to the kids.
- If you’re doing a Facebook group for your youth ministry then add the parents into that group as well.
- Don’t over-program events. 2 extra social activities a term is plenty on top of your regular main youth group gathering each week of term.
- Work out a system to keep track of your young people. Make a database and implement a system like ‘If they miss 2 weeks send them a “we missed you” postcard’ etc…
Stay tuned for “How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 4a): Structuring the regular Youth Group Gathering