I recently spent the weekend at Impact Student Ministries of First Baptist Church of Vandalia, Ohio. I had the honor of being their guest speaker for a DiscipleNOW weekend they call “Morphis.” Dale and Christa Puckett have led the youth there for three years and what I saw in my time with them was nothing short of fascinating.
Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your Name be the glory, for Your mercy (love) and Your truth (faithfulness).”
Success in youth ministry is not quantified by numbers, but rather by fruit. A youth ministry will not bear fruit unless it is Jesus centered. This is not an exhaustive list. However, here are 10 marks of a successful youth ministry, as evidenced by what I saw at FBCV:
- A team mind-set—The small group leaders at Impact serve joyfully. They know they are part of the team. Dale & Christa don’t micromanage them, they trust that they will minister well to their specific groups and report the major wins and needs of their youth.
- Freedom and space for worship—The worship band at Impact is comprised of youth and adults. Some worship bands get up and play their songs and sit down. They’re not afraid of silence; they aren’t afraid to play instrumental music and let the youth sing a new song to the Lord.
- Intentional mentoring—One-on-1 mentoring relationships are part of the ethos of Impact. Older youth mentor younger youth. A culture of honor is being cultivated as youth speak in terms of “my mentor” and seek to apply what they are taught.
- Letting others speak—As youth pastor, Dale speaks to his students 40+ weeks of the year. However, he’s not afraid to give up the pulpit. He allows guys like me to speak in to his students. He allows youth to come up and share their testimonies, or seniors to preach the messages. He sees the value of an outside voice every once in a while to bring God’s Word.
- Support of other church staff members—It’s one thing to ask other pastors on staff to help you with events, but it’s another thing to see them naturally interact with youth, and clearly they want to be there.
- Youth are released to serve—Whether it’s working sound, playing on the worship team, greeting people, or working in the café, Impact youth work hard and are part of the team. They’re valued and not afraid to get their hands dirty, stay late, or do whatever Dale needs from them.
- The backing of the Church—From the senior pastor to the budget, FBCV believes in youth ministry. They sow in to it. Pastor David Starry addresses the youth in his sermons specifically. He talks to them—not down on them.
- A welcoming environment of grace—Impact has rules for their ministry, but they don’t expect lost youth to act like Christians. They’ve created a welcoming environment and are blessed with a large building that is rarely empty. “The Hangar,” is used by the community and for outreach events regularly. Youth feel welcome there—as evidenced by their arrival several hours before the service begins.
- Missional mind-set—Any youth group can do a short term mission trip. Impact does several and they work with the nationals, not for them. They go back to places they’ve been before and let their church know about what’s happening with their partners.
- Recognition of youth as the Church now—One of the most critical components to Impact’s ministry is prayer. FBCV is getting ready to do a building campaign. As part of this, they had an evening of prayer at 6:30pm where adults walked around the current property, read Scripture, and prayed at 7 stations. The youth ministry, however, arrived an hour before the adults and started the same activity of prayer. As a part of this, the Lord gave me this revelation: Just as the Kingdom of God is here now and coming later, youth are the Church now and the future Church as well.
Youth ministers, are these the marks of your ministry? Do these 10 marks transcend cultures and geographical locations? I’d love to hear your thoughts—comment below.