The Fantasy Youth Ministry Team

The last Sunday afternoon of every August I sit in my living room with 11 other guys. We’re intensely focused as we type away on our laptops while looking through stacks of papers covered in handwritten notes. A planning retreat? No. A curriculum development meeting? Nope. An anointed brainstorming session? No way. It’s my annual fantasy football draft.

It sure would be nice if we could pick our youth ministry teams like we pick our fantasy football teams: looking at statistics and match-ups and choosing based on need. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way but if there were such a thing as a “fantasy youth ministry team draft”… here are five categories I would consider:

Love the Gospel – I don’t care how hip or influential a person seems to be. If it isn’t obvious they love the story of redemption and are centering their lives on the goodness of Jesus, then I don’t want them on my team. I’m not talking about perfect people. I’m talking about people who are entirely aware of their imperfections and modeling a lifestyle of faith and repentance.

Love the Family – Youth ministry is not just about teenagers. Youth ministry is about partnering with and supporting the work of discipleship happening in the home. Youth workers that try to take the place of parents or try to make parents out to be the enemy would go undrafted by me. If parents are unsaved this may look different but it’s still a non-negotiable.

Love the Team – We’re better together. Sometimes talented individuals and natural leaders have a hard time believing that. I want people on my team who love that they’re a part of a team and are glad to have a role to play. I don’t need someone with a messiah complex or a lone ranger.

Love the Journey – We’re all in process and there’s never been a teenager who emerged from youth ministry a finished product. 15+ years after high school and I still have so much growing in grace to do. I would select youth workers who patiently trust in God’s progressive work of sanctification as opposed to trying to be the Holy Spirit in teenagers’ lives while forcing behavior change that is disconnected from heart transformation.

Love the Vision – This one starts with me as the leader. What’s the vision, why does it matter and how can you be involved? The vision should me memorable, engaging and regularly repeated. I would be using my draft picks on people who feel the tension of the problem that the vision exists to solve, buy into that vision and can share it with others in a compelling fashion.

We can’t draft our youth ministry team but we can intentionally recruit them and we must strategically develop them. Consider using these five categories as areas of development in your team and you just might be on your way to leading your very own fantasy youth ministry team.

Question: What would you add to this list? Share it here and let’s learn from one another.

Guest Post: David Hertweck serves the Assemblies of God in New York as the District Youth and Chi Alpha Director. Prior to that he served as a youth pastor for 11+ years at Trinity AG in Clay, NY. He’s married to Erin and has two daughters, Lilia and Caraline. He loves his girls, his extended family, good music, good food, his Weber grill, his Taylor guitar, Liverpool Football Club, the Yankees and the Gospel. You can follow him on Twitter at @DavidHertweck.

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3 Things That Haven’t Changed In Youth Ministry

GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee. Jonathan has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

A few years ago, Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute?, was interviewed about the constant changes in the job climate. Bolles asserted, as he often does, that people are asking the wrong question. People always want to know What’s changing when they should be asking, What has remained constant?

As we look at what 2012 brings, perhaps we need to ask the same question. There are plenty of voices offering conjecture about the future and whining about how everything is different. I implore you to ask, What hasn’t changed?

In youth ministry there are plenty of people sitting around, scratching their beards and philosophizing about what they think doesn’t work anymore. It’s a little frustrating at times, especially when many of us are witnessing God doing amazing things through youth ministries across the country—sometimes using the very methods so heavily criticized by these beard-scratchers.

Forget these skeptics. What still works?

I’ve witnessed three staples that I believe will never change in youth ministry—three constants.

1. The priority of one-on-one relationships
Caring adults hanging out with kids. It will never get old. God loves relationships and so do his people.

Jesus is the perfect example of relational ministry. God saw how utterly lost we were and knew that the best way to reach us was to come down and “dwell among us” (John 1:14). We need to always strive to do the same; regardless of how high and mighty we rise on the hierarchical scale. If we ever get too big to rub elbows with others, we’ve lost sight of Christ’s model of leadership (John 13).

Most ministry can be divided into two categories: outreach or discipleship. In 20 years of ministry I’ve seen both accomplished most successfully one-on-one. Think about it for a second. One-on-one conversations about putting our trust in Christ. One-on-one discipleship. I find that some of the best ministry is done when two people sit down and talk face to face. That’s why I always spend plenty of time training my leaders to connect, …which brings up the second staple…

2. The importance of empowering others
The Lone Ranger was a cool TV show, but a really lame philosophy of ministry. Don’t do it alone.

In all four Gospels, one of the first tasks Jesus went about was collecting his posse of disciples. Jesus knew that the best way to reach out to the masses was to equip others for ministry. We need to do the same.

Unfortunately, many neglect this daunting yet vital task. We get so busy with ministry that we don’t make empowering others a priority. Huge mistake. We should always be recruiting and developing adult and student leaders who will join us in our cause.

But we can’t expect to impact others if we aren’t being impacted ourselves. Hence…

3. The necessity of a stable foundation
It’s impossible to lead a solid ministry when you’re standing on shaky ground.

Years ago, Bolles, the same author quoted above, proposed, “I have always argued that change becomes stressful and overwhelming only when you’ve lost any sense of the constancy of your life. You need firm ground to stand on. From there, you can deal with that change.”

What is your foundation?

Jesus ended the Sermon on the Mount with a simple story about two men who each tried to build a house. The materials and design of the house didn’t matter—only the foundation. The largest of ministries have collapsed when they were built on the sand.

What are you building your ministry on? Jesus said, “He who hears these words of mine and put them into practice…” (Matthew 7:24) are you doing those two things? Are you plugged into a place where you regularly hear God’s word? Is it changing you so you can put it into practice? Because those who do are “like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

The world as we know it is changing rapidly. Technology expands every minute and kids listen and interact differently than they did just a few years ago. Change is a constant. The only question is how you’re going to respond. Are you going to sit around and scratch your proverbial beard… or are you going to focus on the constants?

What do you think? Do you agree/disagree with Jonathon’s assessment? Weigh in.


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