Youth Ministy Philosophy

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Part of the requirements for my pastoral internship is that I complete some sort of project.  Here it is.

The Project

The Church’s context: I noticed that the church is near a high school and many youth walk by the church on a daily basis.  For several days I stood outside the church during the half hour or so youth were walking home and counted how many young people passed our building. So I put a plan together and put the following note in the church’s weekly bulletin and monthly newsletter.

Have you ever noticed the number of young people that walk by Faith Lutheran Church on a weekday? For three weeks I decided to count the youth that pass by the church. Each time it was over 120 middle and high school youth (I usually stopped counting at about 120).

Haley and I have come up with an idea to reach out to these young people.

Here’s the plan: On the FIRST FRIDAY of the month, we’re going to set up a table on the front lawn of the church and greet these young people as they walk by the church on their way home from school. When it’s cold, we will offer them hot chocolate and treats. When it’s hot, we will offer them something cool to drink and a snack. Additionally, we will be passing out information about the youth group and afterschool programs.

The goal is to make known the hospitality of our church to the youth who are in our community.

The mission statement of Faith Lutheran Church reads:
“Faith Lutheran Church is a community centered in the good news of Jesus Christ. Our mission is to share that message of God’s love with one another, our community, and the world.”

This ministry of outside hospitality will be sharing the message of God’s love to the youth in our community. We will this outreach ministry Friday January 11, 2013 and will continue it on the first Friday of the month during the school year. But we can’t do this alone. We need your help.

Here’s how you can support this endeavor. We need supplies. For this first month we need individual packages of hot chocolate mix (at least 120 individual packages) and individually wrapped bags of chips.

If you would like to support this new ministry please bring a box of individual packages of hot chocolate mix or a box of individual wrapped bags of chips to church by January 6, 2013. That’s the Sunday before we want to start this outreach.

Also, if you’re interested in sitting out on the front lawn, meeting young people, and inviting them to church please talk to Haley or Jeremy. We would love to have you join us—no one is too young or too old to be a part of this.

Jeremy Serrano Intern Pastor

Almost immediately I got 2 volunteers.  Now this may not seem like much, but for a church our size it is a worthy number.

The Philosophy Behind The Project

This ministry is about making ourselves known to youth in the community who are unaware of our presence, or who are only aware of our location and that’s it.  The goal is to move young people into deeper levels of relationship with the church.  I think about it in terms of concentric circles.

CirclesSo, I am trying to help people identify their relationship to our church and aide them in moving into a more center ring in the circle. I aim to get “community” people to become “acquainted” people AND “acquainted” people to become “affiliated” people.

I think a similar graph identifying one’s spiritual journey in the Christian faith can be made. However, the path through the circles is a lot more messy than the one above and the titles of the circles is different.  

Now, with this kind of model people can easily be objectified and seen as either “wins” or “losses” depending on their movement through the circles.  But, I don’t assign these kind of value judgements.  I use this chart to help me organize ministries and help to focus purpose.  

Here is some photos from our First Fridays.

(The banner and cards we used are made by Shawn Cummins.  I highly recommend his work.)


How do you organize your ministries?  
What kind of philosophy do you have that undergirds what you do as a congregation?
What ministry philosophy has been helpful for you?


Planning a Youth Group Meeting

by jpserrano on October 30, 2012 · 0 comments

Worship, outreach, learning, and fellowship are core aspects of any healthy youth ministry; exclude any one of these and a youth ministry is found wanting.  Though a youth ministry needs these four practices, it doesn’t mean that all four need to be done at every meeting.  

Each gathering should be purposeful in its planning and implementation.  Even a plan to “just hang out,” is still a plan.  Here is a regular youth group meeting and how I usually plan it with all four core aspects. I have only worked in churches with small youth groups [5-25 youth] so this comes from small church youth ministry.

 Youth Group Meeting

We begin with a meal.  

I like to have people in the congregation bring meals for the young people, but I do let parents do it when non-parents aren’t signed up.  There are so many things I like about doing a meal between adults and youth.  

First, this is a good way to connect youth and adults in the congregation.  As a part of the deal, I encourage adults to sit and eat with the young people in order to get to know them.  These connections have formed deep connections between adult and youth because of the neutral ground of the dinner table.  It has also allowed old Sunday School teachers to re-connect to youth now that they are older.  

Second, anyone in the congregation can do this.  For those with little income, the youth ministry budget covers the cost of spaghetti fixings.  It is even better when the adults cook the meal at the church and have the youth involved.  The youth learn how to make food and get to know the adult.

Third, people in the congregation can see first hand what is going on in the youth group without having to lead activities like games or Bible studies.  I have been told many times that it is intimidating for many to do so. (There are exceptions to this).

Fourth, it usually surprises the adults how many “non-churched” kids are a part of the youth group.  Ministry happens outside of the Sunday worship service; just because there are not many youth in worship doesn’t mean we are not reaching out to them.  We of course are always pointing kids to Sunday worship as the central aspect of our faith practice, but it takes time.

We play games.

Many  people think that games are the focal point of the youth group.  For some youth, games are the reasons they come.  Games are very important, but not because they provide entertainment.  We who live in California are not able to compete in the entertainment aspect of youth ministry living so close to the entertainment capital of the world and its theme parks, movie theaters, bowling alleys, skiing, surfing, etc.  There are whole industries whose job it is to entertain youth; we can only do so much with entertainment.  We play games for fun, but also for fellowship.

Games, with proper leadership, teach youth how to be gracious winners and losers.  They teach youth how to play fair.  They teach them that there is such a thing as being competitive without being cutthroat. Games bond groups together when the above happens and allows them to enter into each other’s lives through play.  If they can do this together well, then opening up for prayer needs becomes easier.

We pray (this is part of worship).

Prayer is an important part of youth ministry.  It is vital that leaders model prayer; youth will often pick up on the order in which the leader prays and copy that order.  If you always first thank God, then ask for something, the kids will do the same.  

I like to have long spaces of silence during prayer. It is uncomfortable at first, but the youth learn to listen after this is practiced over and over again.  The most silent prayer time I ever built a youth group up to was 20 minutes.  Sure, some kids fell asleep.  But even they thought that the holy rest they received was beneficial.  I believe a part of youth ministry is helping kids to do less rather than more.  It is to help them slow down in our fast past world where the biggest sin they commit is constant activity without mindfulness of God;  I try to bring back mindfulness.

We learn.

I usually try to have some kind of Bible Study during youth group; it can be didactic or involve having the youth teach each other.  There are three major exceptions to this. One, I usually have a once a month game night.  Two, we also have youth group meetings where we spent the whole “study” time in prayer and petitioning for others. Lastly, there are some weekly youth group meetings where we make food for the homeless shelters in our area. (We set this up in advance with them). 


How do you plan your youth group?