Youth Ministry at Half Time: Look What We’ve Stumbled Upon

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I have to confess that I am still learning to look before I leap.  Historically, I have been known as a “ready, fire, aim” kind of guy.  This method has certainly come with many setbacks.  Nothing catastrophic (thanks to my wise and patient Senior Pastor), but much wasted energy.  Yet, just as each confession in my personal walk with Jesus results in praise, so does my ministry confession.  In spite of my reflexive approach (a nicer way to describe myself) to ministry, God has kept His hand on us all along.

By God’s grace, our Youth Ministry has landed in a sweet spot this year.  I began this article with a confession because I am fully aware that it is not due to my incredible prayer, planning, and/or foresight.  Things that my team and I have talked and prayed about over the years have come to pass, but I am convinced that is only because God gave me a vision for a later time (Habakkuk 2:2-3) and brought it about Himself as I kept running along.

Something we have noticed over the years, as a team, is that the 5th graders just chomp at the bit to get into the Youth Ministry, but the 6th graders disappear within weeks of having entered it.  We have also noticed a sort of doctrinal deficiency when they do move up.  With God’s leading, we have begun to make a shift this year that we believe is going to help rectify those two areas.

We decided to shift our grouping to effectively prepare the younger students.  We took the 5th graders out of our Kids Church program because they are too old (at least this group, in our context), and we took the 6th graders out of Youth Group because they are too young (again, in our context).  This has magically provided us with a two year incubatory period where we can invest very intentionally in those two years.  As such, we are providing a broad-yet-solid foundation for their doctrine and theology over those two years.  (We are using the Core Truth series by Simply Youth Ministry for this)  This is going to front load our kids with some basic information and relationship-building time before entering into the larger Youth Group.  These younger kids will have a chance to get to know our team (as our Youth Group leaders are also the 5th-6th grade teachers).  With this move, we have effectively killed three birds with one stone.  We have provided a period for this group of kids to get to know one another, get to know the youth team, and learn some core doctrine before entering into the whole new world of exegetical preaching.

As the pastor to our youth, something I have noticed over the years is that I have failed to move intentionally through scripture.  What I mean is that even though I preach carefully through the texts, I don’t teach the texts in any intentional order or flow.  I have taught through 1 Peter, then a section of John, then the Sermon on the Mount, then Colossians and James over the last couple of years.  This is not a bad thing.  They heard the Word, all of which is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16), but it was not in any specific direction.  I would love to say with confidence that I was being led by the Spirit to do this, but in all honesty, if I was, I didn’t even know it. 

I decided to chart my teaching to effectively equip the older students.  I took this year to begin in the beginnings.  Though I have been the youth pastor here for 7 years, this year is the beginning in many ways.  I will be preaching through Matthew during our larger group time on Sunday nights.  Matthew starts his gospel with these words, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ… (Matthew 1:1).”  This is literally “The book of the genesis (beginning) of Jesus Christ…” What a wonderful place to start looking at Jesus again for the hundredth first time! While starting there with the larger group, the midweek Bible study will be launching in Genesis.  So this year is all about beginnings.  I, as their pastor, am hoping and praying that this year will be just that for a ministry that is 7 years old – a beginning.

I’d like to return to my confession and praise in closing.  I am not the greatest planner.  I often call myself a visionary to make myself feel better.  I can see things, but I don’t always take the time to map out how to get to them.  Yet, because of His mercy on me and His grace toward this ministry, God has seen fit to guide my scampering feet right onto a path that seems like it was designed with mastery.  I cannot take credit, I can only give praise.  And to be perfectly honest, I like it that way.

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