How much of your time and energy is spent on big programs? How much of it is spent on trips and retreats? If you’re like me, then much of your time is spent on those things. And there’s great value in those parts of youth ministry. But I want to encourage you to return to “simple youth ministry.”
Since I’ve been out of full-time youth ministry, serving as a missionary, I’m doing the best youth work of my life. All the trappings of big youth ministry programs have been stripped away and I’ve gone back to the really simple parts of ministry that I always knew I should do, but never had the time or energy for. Things I encouraged our volunteers to do, but I rarely did myself.
Things like taking kids to run errands with you. Now when I go to the grocery store I bring two or three kids along and they love it. They even help with the shopping! These moments, of them getting to watch how I live, are valuable, but it also gives me an opportunity to get them talking about their own lives. In the past I always felt like it was too far out of my way to pick a student up to join me.
Another thing I’ve started is studying the Bible really deliberately with just a few kids. I recently started reading through the Gospel of John with three boys that have been showing interest in growing spiritually. They love it! And now the other kids want to be a part of it. It’s nothing fancy, we literally read the Bible and I help them understand what it means. For me, before, this had to happen in a prearranged small group with curriculum, snacks, and PlayStation time before hand. We’ve taken the distractions away and they’re really growing.
One of the boys that I’m building a relationship with is a 14-year-old named Reagan. He normally attends the “teen club” hosted by the local AIDS outreach ministry, so he already had some interaction with Christian activities, but our study of the Bible and all of our little moments of time together are having an impact on him. He’s really coming alive! He’s been showing off his passion for drawing. The other day he was walking around quoting John 1:14. You can tell that the life God has designed for him is starting to blossom.
I’m not sure that I saw as much life change when I was planning a weekly youth gathering and organizing some trips. Sure, kids were really excited for a moment, but the next entertaining distraction took some of that fervor away. I’m hopeful that doing things more simply will actually lead to greater change in the life of these kids. Could it mean greater change in the life of the students that God has entrusted you with?
Casey Prince served as the Director of High School Ministries at Grace Community Church in Raleigh, NC for 7 years. His family now lives in Cape Town where they have started Ubuntu Sports Outreach. You can learn more at www.ubuntusports.org.