What’s the feel of your youth ministry?
Why does our ministry exist? If you’ve never asked yourself that question, you should. Knowing why you exist as a ministry will help you draft a mission/purpose statement that can guide most of your leadership decisions.
What should our ministry do? You probably ask yourself this question on a daily or weekly basis. Hint: This is a much easier question to answer if you’ve already answered the previous question. Once you know why your youth ministry exists (mission/purpose), you simply do those things that help you fulfill your purpose and don’t do those things that don’t.
But there’s a third question that rarely gets asked, but I think should be.
What should our ministry feel like? Two youth groups in town could have identical mission statements and do identical things, but the experience at each could easily feel completely different to teenagers. One might be tightly organized and the other more loose. One could be a bit legalistic and the other more grace-driven. One could feel like leaders were mostly in charge and the other could have a sense of student ownership. Two “identical” youth strategies that feel completely different.
At Saddleback Church we’ve landed on four easy-to-remember-and-implement descriptors for how we want every single aspect of our ministry to feel to teenagers, whether a student is a first-timer or a long-time member, whether it’s at our large weekend gathering or on a mission trip.
We want our youth ministry to feel….
REAL. We want teenagers to sense an environment of authenticity. Athletic kids can be athletic. Gamers can game. Nerds can be nerdy. Strugglers can struggle, and on-fire believers can be on fire. Our leaders lead authentically; they share their failures as much as their successes. Good days are celebrated and bad days are cared about.
RELEVANT. We aren’t the coolest youth group in town, but we do try to create a youth ministry that feels relevant to the world a teenager is trying to navigate. Our lessons, our events, our music and our overall atmosphere are designed to make church feel relevant to our audience. It’s not about us, it’s about 12-18 year olds.
RELATIONAL. We want teenagers to know that relationships matter. We celebrate friendship. We purposely make room in our programs for conversation, prayer and the various biblical “one anothers”. We want our youth ministry to feel like a place where relationships are a priority.
RELAXED. Teenagers are stressed out. Stressed out trying to get better grades. Stressed out trying to make peace at home. Stressed out trying to navigate the dating scene. Stressed out trying to make the sports team. Stressed out trying to fit in. We want our youth ministry to feel like a place of rest and relaxation. We want the cares of the world to fall to the floor the moment they step through our doors.
“How does our youth ministry feel?” If you’ve never asked yourself that question, you should. Even better than asking yourself… ask a teenager.