I recently had a great time with some new friends in Austin, Texas. We spent the weekend together at their church getting to know one another and their youth ministry. They have the desire to build some foundations for their ministry that will be transferable even with different youth directors. I have the privilege of help them with this process.
The first weekend was all about observation. There was copious amounts of time spent with parents, youth committee members and students. As I listened to the heart cry of each group there were a few themes I believe to be true not only for this church but for almost every student ministry.
Here's a few...
Students want more than fun and games
As I spoke with these students it was obvious they were hungry for relationship. One theme that kept coming out was their longing to know each other. Every student is looking for community and will find it somewhere. It could be the lacrosse team or the band, but as youth workers our longing is the body of Christ becomes their most meaningful community.
The other comment that resonated with me dealt with wanting more than simply knowing about Jesus, they want to know him personally. In fact one student used the illustration of "knowing about Sam Bradford vs. knowing Sam Bradford. Unfortunate quarterback choice but I got the point.
Yes, there is a place for games but student need opportunity to get serious about relationships. Notice the nice segue.
Relationship is King
Students engage in activities where they know others and are know by others. "Sometimes you want to be where everybody knows your name" is a heart cry of every student. Students connecting with students and caring adult leaders must be a value of every student ministry.
Volunteer Leaders want to be equipped and supported
Adult leaders are busy. The delicate balance of providing support and training but not demanding too much time is an issue in my own student ministry and every student ministry I've seen. Leaders don't want to be dropped off at some island with middle school boys and told to fend for themselves. They also don't want endless meetings that bring little value.
It's more of an art than a science to figure out the balance, but it must be constantly discussed and tweaked.
Parents want their kids to want to go to church
Sure, parents have other goals for their kids, but if their son or daughter doesn't give them a hard time about going to church they're pretty much satisfied. I'm not real sure how I feel about this, I just know it's common to every student ministry situation.
That's my 2 cents worth. Are these observations true of your context? If they are what are you doing to address them?
See you later, I have a lot of work to do in my own student ministry.