Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Volunteer's Youth Ministry Manifesto (a work in progress)

In September 2009 my family and I became volunteer youth workers for the Pekin Bible Church organization. We have been having a blast but also feel very overwhelmed at times. My goal is to put together this manifesto so we have can have a guide for this ministry we are leading. And I hope that someday I can turn this article into a format that helps others make their own personal youth ministry manifestos.
(Two quick notes: 1) I have not read yet Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto..., so any parallels, including title, are coincidental. 2) A manifesto is simply a "public declaration of intent," so please don't get hung up on the name.)

The (work in progress) addition to the title of this post is an important point to keep in mind as you read this. Throughout (and mostly at the end) you'll find comments in Italics. They're me " thinking out loud" as I reviewed this Manifesto, which was originally written in the spring of 2009.

Article 1 - Time
We need to figure out how much time we have to give. Not knowing will lead to overextending our family and under-serving the students in our ministry.

After a good amount of thinking, my wife and I decided that 5 hours a week is all that my family can currently give as volunteer youth workers. While that might seem small at first, we feel it is a reasonable amount of time to expect from a family with 3 kids less than 5-years old, a full time job, and intentions to home school. This isn't elevating our family as more important than other people. We just want to honor Jesus by putting a priority on our family: the best and most important place to do disciple-making. (Please also understand that we're not using a stopwatch and walking out in the middle of conversations when the timer beeps. This is a general guideline, not a strict rule.)

Article II - Foundational Principles
If we only have 5 hours a week, prioritizing that time becomes paramount because we don't have any to waste! Here are some foundational principles to guide us:

Section 1 - Key Concepts
  • Relationships. "We were happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us." (I Thessalonians 2:8) You care for people you know. You die for people you love.  (Hopefully that's the last time I mention 'death' in an article about youth ministry.)
  • Process over event. "Events are easier to manage, pay for and get excited about. Processes build results for the long haul." (Seth Godin) Not only that, but events can zap your time and energy while pulling your focus away from relationships.
  • Integration. The more students rub shoulder with other believers, the better. This includes older believers in our congregation as well as believers from other congregations.
  • Play to our strengths. We're not good at everything, so we'll be focusing on what we're good at.
  • Student-led. We want as much student involvement as possible. "You own what you create."
  • Consistency. While no program is sacred, it is important to give everything a proper chance. This will allow the adjusting to and testing of any new ideas.

Section 2 - What is a disciple?
We need to know the target. Specifically, what does a disciple of Jesus look like as a junior or senior high student? Knowing the target will help us decide how to get there. One of the best resources I've seen on this subject is Cadre Ministries "Description of a Discipled Person" training.
We're proposing the following as key markers of a disciple of Jesus:
  • A growing and unshakable love for the Lord
  • An unconditional love for people
  • A commitment to knowing and applying Biblical truth
  • An understanding of Biblical stewardship
  • A life that exhibits Christ-like character
  • A disciple-maker that can reproduce their spiritual life
In short, we want followers of Jesus.  It's really that simple.

Article 3 - The Specifics
Keeping in mind everything listed above, what is the most effective and efficient way to use our time to make more and better disciples of the students involved with our ministry? We propose the following:

Section 1 - Meetings
  • Weekly- Sunday 9:30-10:30am in the Pekin Bible Church building youth room. The primary activities will be Bible teaching time and prayer.
  • Monthly- Once each month during the weekly meetings we plan to do a service or outreach activity with the students. This could be anything that gets us out of the church building and into the community. (Volunteer or service projects, getting involved with local events that are happening, etc.)  (These have not happened yet this fall.  We still want them to, but planning them has been more difficult than we originally thought.)
  • Monthly- Fun event: A no frills/no pressure hang out at various places.
  • Quarterly- Leadership Lunch: Hold a lunch for adult and student leaders to get on the same page. Enable and equip volunteers to help with any and all areas of the ministry.  (These have not been going as planned.  Probably due to my failure at leading the time, they have become a "List all events you want us to pull off" Lunch.)

Section 2 - Additional Elements
  • Facilitate 1 disciple-making group per adult leader each week.  (We're a little behind on this goal.  But I think we'll see some huge fruit if it happens.)
  • Write 1 note to students per adult leader each week.
  • Write a monthly update letter for the congregation at Pekin Bible Church and others.  (These last two writing goals have also not happened. It could be a lack of time, it more likely is a lack of priority on my part.)
  • Prayerfully pursue additional adult volunteers.  (Another family recently joined us, but as of yet we haven't figured out an overall team strategy.  We need to do this soon!)
  • Pray for the students.  (I personally need to do this more.)
  • Create and use a document template to help keep ourselves accountable to The Specifics.  (We have a BETA version of this template.  But it definitely needs to be tweaked to be more useful.)
So I realize there are a lot of "we need to do this" and "we haven't done this" in 'The Specifics' section.  Suffice it to say this is definitely a work in progress and we'll be checking back in on this strategy periodically to make any necessary changes.

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