Youth Ministry Isn’t Winning – Part 3

The last few weeks we’ve talked about youth ministry as it has been and why it isn’t working. You can read those posts here and here. Last week I introduced the concept of a discipleship movement. Today I want to explore that concept a bit more and explain what we changed on a ground level in our ministry.

Where do you start?

First, you have to start with an acknowledgement that we, as youth workers, won’t be able to start or continue a movement of Junior and Senior High students without having key leaders from that age group. Once you’ve acknowledged that, there’s also the reality that, in a general sense, 20-30% of most towns is in the Junior and Senior High School. That’s not an entirely across the board statement as I know of towns where those numbers are different. Either way you have to begin to realize that , for most of us, there are way too many teenagers to fit them in your building.

This is where discipleship being the foundational element of the church and having most of “church” (discipleship) take place outside of the “church” (building), makes more sense. Simply on a logistical level, if the goal is to see entire schools reached then fundamentally moving your youth ministry outside a building and specific meeting time will eliminate a ton of obstacles that would otherwise hinder a movement. [Tweet That]

What do you do?

For us, it began with cancelling our main gathering. Honestly, it wasn’t working as well as I’d like and we were never able to make it be the center point of our ministry anyway. The center point happened to be our small groups anyway. So we went smaller, back to only small groups. I just couldn’t figure out how to make it work better than it was, and I don’t mind cancelling stuff that isn’t working. Smaller is how we built, so it worked better.

Sometimes you have to think smaller to go bigger. [Tweet That]

As our efforts in small groups increased, I continued to see how it wasn’t working like I wanted. Discipleship is the bigger deal. Seeing this, I began to push harder. We identified some potential leaders, cancelled the groups they were in, and began attempting meetings outside of our small groups with the understanding that they would start their own. (I’d change this strategy if I were to do it again.) I also started working with another existing small group. I began it with the intention in mind that the members of this group (junior high students) will be able to continue it and lead it without an adult. I’ve even intentionally missed some nights while helping them plan the next weeks group.

What would you change?

I’d keep the groups together and adjust them into leaders huddles from Mike Breen’s Building a Discipling Culture. Then, after 6 months I’d require anyone in that group to start a huddle of their own. Doing a cold turkey cut over is quick, but most people can’t deal with it and are more suited to a transition over time.

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