A NEW MODEL FOR YOUTH MINISTRY: HOW WE CAME TO THE CONCLUSION TO “SWITCH IT UP” AT BLOOMINGDALE CHURCH
Sticky Faith. If research continually concludes (approximately 59% [barna.org] of) youth ministry attending students are walking away from their faith after high school, then we must proactively develop programming that encourages faith to “stick.” According to Fuller’s Youth Institute extensive research and the National Study of Youth & Religion (Soul Searching, Almost Christian), this includes:
- Empowering and training parents to model spiritual formation to their children
- Encouraging adult mentorship (at least 5 adults investing in each student)
- Giving students plenty of space to explore their faith and how to “work it out” in daily life, rather than defaulting to telling them
- Serving together, especially serving younger children and serving with adults
- Promoting intergenerational church worship service involvement
Inability to articulate understanding of one’s faith. Many students (and parents) struggle with the ability to explain the basics of their faith because they are not regularly talking about it. Further, they may claim to know Christ but are not allowing God’s Word to transform every aspect of their lives. We must model a transformative faith.
Consumers versus Transformers. We want to create culture of empowering students to “test out” their faith by actively serving, mentoring a younger person, and leading others; especially when it is challenging for all involved.
We may have been using an outdated model. We have noticed that our Thursday and Sunday night attendance has been shrinking and we were not attracting guests as often as we had hoped. If students who are not church-insiders do not feel comfortable attending; and students who are church-insiders do not find purpose in regularly attending, then it may be time to readjust! The goal: a model that “makes sense” to both non-churched and believing students.
All Youth Group Unity & 8th Grade Transition. For many years we have been operating as two youth groups, which has made the 8th grade transition difficult and adult leader unity challenging. Coming together at least twice a week will naturally unify us.
Can we do everything we do on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday (nights) on one night? Yes! By combining our weekly “open-format safe place” and all group gathering, we:
- Free up weekly schedule for new ministry opportunities (ex: mentoring, small groups)
- Bring our care and outreach energy and resources to one night
- Protect our leaders (and families) from burn out
We want to provide a blend of outreach, discipleship, and mentoring:
- Friday Night Coffeehouse is our safe place gathering night for regulars, guests, and students from the community.
- Youth Alpha provides a non-confrontational space for students to discover Jesus.
- Sunday Morning Youth Group has a discipleship focus, in which we worship, pray, and learn from the Bible together.
- Small Groups provide an additional opportunity for spiritual growth for students who desire it.
- Our “mentoring-culture” enables any student who wants a mentor to obtain one as well as to have weekly interactions with caring adult leaders. In addition, we want students to be actively caring for their peers.
- Our “orange-culture” places value on the impact of parents’ powerful influence of spiritual formation in the home.
- Students get to serve alongside their friends, parents and/or mentor at monthly serving opportunities.
- Quarterly discipleship retreats give students a chance to focus on their spiritual formation and friendships.
Creating a Youth Ministry that non-churched students love. Because of our mission to make disciples of believers and unbelievers, we do not want to program a youth ministry that only makes sense to students who “grew up in the church.” We must continually ask the question: Is this attractive and does it make sense to all students? (See Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley)
MISSION PROCEEDS MODEL >> MODEL PROCEEDS PROGRAMMING
[our mission] A safe and welcoming place for 7th-12th grade students to develop friendships, be mentored, and discover Jesus.
[core values] GodValued, ChristConnected, Word+SpritLed, LoveCommunity, onMission
[programming focuses] Community Outreach, Discipleship, and Care [culture] Mentoring-Culture, Orange-Culture