The adolescent years are filled with change. Bodies, thoughts, emotions, intercultural relations, spiritual formation – all of life is affected. Questions of self and God are becoming more personal. A transitory season, adolescence is learning to leave childhood behind and move steadfastly toward adulthood. As such, youth ministry must keep in mind the bigger picture. The challenge ever before us is one of eternal perspective. What will remain? What will persist long after the student graduates high school, no longer a member of the youth group? Through the school years and beyond, what will endure to personal and spiritual maturity? It is, therefore, our conviction that youth ministry must not become an end in itself, but a means to a more desired end. As the adolescent is moving toward adulthood, youth ministry must have Christian maturity as its ultimate goal. Or simply put, we must not become content with raising Christian teenagers, but must strive toward the greater goal of building mature, God-centered adults.
Pillars of Ministry
From this foundational philosophy come three ministry “pillars” that undergird all we do—worship, nurture, and outreach. As God leads and supplies, we desire to help students and families enjoy God in personal and authentic communion (worship), seeking to enrich their relationship with Jesus, the One by whom communion with God is made possible (nurture), always looking to engage others with the life-changing message of the gospel of Christ, that they too might come to enjoy this all-satisfying relationship (outreach).
First, we want to help students glorify and enjoy God, believing whole-heartedly that God is the Source of authentic joy and that it greatly honors Him when we find our deepest delight in Him. Our enjoyment of Him, our continual desire for Him, brings Him much glory. This is the essence of worship.
Second, we desire to enrich the student’s relationship with Jesus Christ, entirely confident that He alone can redeem us from sin’s penalty, secure for us eternally abundant life, and triumphantly usher us into the presence of God. In a culture that wars for our attention, we will teach and model for our students the absolute sufficiency of Christ in all things, helping them to embrace Jesus as their greatest Treasure.
Third, we look to engage a lost humanity – both near and far – with the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, fully convinced it is an urgent message of utmost importance. Therefore we will proclaim this reality humbly and courageously, looking for every opportunity, as the Spirit of God leads. This we desire in obedience to Scripture and in Christ-like love for our neighbor. Our prayer is that together we would enjoy the fullness of God, be enriched in our walk with Christ, and engage this community and the world beyond. Yet we recognize our own inability and need. So we pray and labor, trusting in the loving, perfect, and supreme will of God. To Him alone be all glory!
Partnering with Parents
The clear Biblical reality is that it is the parent primarily to whom God has given the responsibility of raising their children in the way of the Lord. We have no ambition, then, to undermine or seize authority that belongs to the parent first and foremost. Instead, we value, appreciate, and affirm the parent’s high calling and desire to partner with them, supporting them as we ought. In this we work prayerfully, humbly, passionately, and deliberately, by God’s grace, toward the common goal of helping young people navigate the adolescent years, propelling them to a lifetime of maturity in Christ.
Connection with the Body
It is sometimes said, “The youth of today is the church of tomorrow.” While this statement is well-intentioned, it implies that our adolescents do not have a current place in the church. The Scriptural reality is that the youth of today is the church of today. The implication is significant: Our young people are an integral part of the congregation. We are not simply waiting for teens to reach adult age – to become part of “big church” – before recognizing and incorporating them into the lifeblood of the church. Multigenerational participation and worship is the key, that our young people would rub shoulders with all those whom God has assembled, regardless of age. In this not only are they encouraged in their faith journeys, but they become an encouragement to others also.
In order to grow increasingly fruitful in the ministry to our youth and their families, we continually pray for godly, spiritually infectious leaders. The goal is faithful stewardship of every person whom God entrusts to us and we consider it of great value that caring adults be involved in the lives of our young people as mentors, teachers, friends, coaches, and examples of the Christian life. In addition to adult leadership, we aim to involve our young people in the workings of the ministry, not wanting them to view Christian life and ministry as something merely to be consumed. We long to propel them to an active and obedient faith, that they too might become dedicated ministers of the gospel.
Fleshing It Out
From these skeletal issues of philosophy and strategy flow the daily activities of our youth ministry program. The following points are intended to help “flesh out” these more tangible aspects.
• Our Sunday morning discipleship-oriented classes range from sermon application to topical lessons to expositional studies of the Bible.
• Highly relational in nature, our midweek gatherings seek to welcome the churched and the unchurched alike. Studies cover a variety of topics while remaining uncompromisingly faithful to the character and Word of God.
• Monthly social events and/or service projects help foster meaningful relationships with adults and peers outside the church setting.
• Quarterly Ministry Council meetings provide opportunity for parents, students, and staff to pray, plan, and evaluate the ministry together.
• Bi-annual parent meetings, held each fall and spring, allow youth staff to share philosophy and calendar, giving considerable time for parental input.
• Yearly summer camps, missions trips, retreats, conferences, etc. bring unique occasion to spend extended time together, ever-seeking how we might grow in love for God and impact our world for Christ.