As one of the Associate Directors of Connectional Ministries I serve as a resource for congregations. As a person who has had over 30 years of experience in leading youth ministry in local churches I focus most of my work on youth and young adult ministries. I speak with congregations, leadership teams, staff, youth groups, parents, senior pastors, search committees, volunteers, and youth workers. I meet with individuals as well as with large groups and committees.
Each church and ministry setting is unique (as are the people they reach), so there is no “one way” of doing ministry. What works in one context will have to be tweaked or totally changed for another context; what works one year may not work for another. Because I have experience in small and large congregations and because I’ve served as a youth minister for so long I can speak to many of these contexts and offer suggestions for ministry with young people in the community.
Youth ministry has changed in the past 10 or 12 years. As a result of various research (from Fuller Seminary, Willow Creek Church, Search Institute, and The National Study of Youth and Religion) we’ve discovered that much of what we used to do in youth ministry is not sustainable for young people in carrying their faith into adulthood. Youth ministry that is congregational and relational – one that integrates the youth of the community into the entire congregation (and not just the youth programming) has shown to be sustainable and most effective. This has been the main theme of my consulting and resourcing for congregations in the Conference.
Jesus said, “You cannot experience the Kingdom of God unless you become like children.” Becoming like a child means spending time with them; it means recognizing God’s ministry to them through you. How can a congregation fully experience the Kingdom unless it is also in ministry with the young people in the surrounding community?
Churches large and small must answer the question, “Why are we in youth ministry?” and determine just what it is that makes a youth ministry successful. Large churches with hundreds of teenagers in attendance look at their numbers and figure they must be “doing it right,” yet most of them still exist with youth entrenched in ministry “silos” that don’t relate with others in the congregation; the small churches with no teenagers or young adults decide they don’t need to focus on the young at all because they don’t have any young in their congregation to minister with. I wish all churches would know about the calling they have to minister to and with young people – as an entire congregation.
I most enjoy meeting with people whom God has called to be the presence of Christ in the world. I love the stories of how God is using the people to spread the Gospel; I love recognizing the excitement a person gets when he or she tells about how God uses him or her to point toward the Kingdom; I love meeting with people who share a love for others. For me, that’s evidence of God at work in congregations and communities.
I also enjoy working with teenagers. It’s always been encouraging and powerful to witness young people recognizing God’s presence and love in their lives, and when an entire congregation gets behind this kind of transformation it is Kingdom forming.
I have served as a staff youth minister in local churches for over 30 years – 22 years as an elder. I’ve served in three conferences in small and large churches where I’ve planned and led countless retreats, mission trips, and youth programs. I have been writing curriculum and books on youth ministry since my college days. Through all this I now appreciate the calling that each individual has in ministry with young people (not just a few volunteers pushed back in a youth wing of a church). In fact, even churches with no teenagers are called to be in ministry with children and youth. That can (and should) be done through the community to which they are called - not for the purpose of getting the young to come to the church, but rather to gain a more complete experience of the Kingdom.
With this experience I have a good understanding of staff and congregational dynamics. I am used to working with parents (the most influential people in the faith decisions of our young) and am always looking for ways to integrate youth and young adults with others in the faith community. I focus on empowering leadership in the Conference through local congregations and especially look for ways to help such leadership take hold through teenagers and young adults in church communities.
I can be reached through the phone (678-533-1445) or my Conference email (email@example.com). I’m happy to schedule appointments with youth leaders, pastors, youth groups, parent groups, search committees, SPR Committees, or task forces where I can be helpful.
Much of my youth ministry design is in my book - One Body: Integrating Teenagers Into the Life of Your Church (The Youth Cartel)
Destination Unknown (1, 2, and 3) (Abingdon Press) – a resource for Bible studies and small groups that uses locations in your surrounding community to connect with scripture, worship, and missions.