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Reviewing the past year of my youth ministry

Every year each ministry in our church writes an overview of the past year. A couple of us (including myself) also give an oral report at our annual meeting. Here’s a brief (believe it or not) excerpt from my written annual report about where the youth ministry has come this past year.

A Focused Vision

This year our philosophy of ministry was greatly simplified. No more mission statement, purpose statement, vision statements, core values, strategies, etc. It was confusing for most people and very difficult to communicate. It left the vision for the ministry’s forward spiritual movement very fuzzy and unfocused for students, adult leaders and even me!

Now all those statements are boiled down together. The purpose is the mission, which is also the vision, which is also our core values and strategy all wrapped up into one, easy-to-remember vision: “Deep and Wide Youth Ministry.” We want to take teenagers deep into the Word so they become spiritually passionate believers who take the gospel wide to the lost people around them.

Beginning to Implement the Vision

The implementation of Deep & Wide is starting to work itself out in a variety of ways.

  • Sr. High C3 renamed to Impact: “We come to be spiritually impacted so we can go out there and make a spiritual impact.”
  • At Impact, we’re going through 30 core questions of Christianity, essentially summarizing 30 key areas of systematic theology.
  • C-Groups continued to be a place where high school students can build relationships with other believers in a small group setting and be challenged to go deep in the Word.
  • All teenagers were trained to share their faith using Pray, Pursue, Persuade: pray for 5 unsaved friends, pursue a relationship with them where you bring God up in conversation, and lovingly persuade them into a relationship with Christ.
  • All teenagers also were taken through the G.O.S.P.E.L. Journey, where we traced the Lord’s plan of salvation through the entire Bible.
  • Jr. High went through an in-depth study of the entire New Testament in The Journey small groups. This year they will go through the entire Old Testament.
  • The Belize missions trip was geared to take kids deep into the Word by spending an hour alone in the Lord every morning, teaching times, and through debriefing/reflection together on what God was doing through us. They were also challenged to go wide with the gospel as we shared our faith with adults, children and teenagers alike. Many came to faith in Christ as a result!
  • M.U.U.U.C.E. served as a good kick-start for getting into the Word this school year and introducing new 7th graders to each other as they got ready to go through the New Testament together in The Journey.
  • Wake ‘n Ski did not meet its “go wide” focus. It is being evaluated for next year.
  • 30 Hour Famine was organized and let by high school student, Sara Wadi. She did an outstanding job of coordinating the event to raise funds for providing food, education, clothing, medical attention, and the gospel message to starving children in other countries. The money we raised literally “went wide.”
  • Since our vision for Deep & Wide Youth Ministry was still taking shape, our winter ski trip to Big Sky in Montana did not really fall into it any specific way. That will obviously have to be evaluated if we do the ski trip again.
  • M.O.V.E. 2008 was a great opportunity to serve the community of Minneapolis by cleaning a facility that provides furniture to individuals and families entering society (immigrants, ex-convicts, etc.). We also assembled a lot of donated furniture for them, as the hands and feet of Jesus.

As we launch into the upcoming year, we intend to make Deep & Wide much more pointed and integrated. The transition began last year and it will continue throughout next year, too, as we evaluate everything and seek the Lord’s direction for our ministry. Hopefully by 2010 Deep & Wide will be be the driving force behind everything that happens in the youth ministry. The life-change and growth we’ve experienced so far is just the tip of the iceberg of how God wants to bless His work here.

Where the Vision is Going

Our goal is to become more Christlike, as scripture commands (Rom. 8:29; 12:2; etc.). This does not mean that we only strive to become more perfect with less sin, as many Christians think. It actually means that our heart for lost people must continually grow because, ultimately, that’s the very reason why Christ came to earth in the first place – out of a love and burden for lost people. To become more like Christ means that our hearts share His desire to see sinners come to faith in Him. This evangelism aspect of discipleship should be a part of the spiritual journey every believer takes. We want to see teenagers become more Christlike, in both spiritual maturity (Luke 2:52) and in a heart for lost people (Matthew 28:18).

We believe that evangelism and discipleship are not intended to be separate. Traditionally, small groups and Bible studies are seen as discipleship opportunities and evangelism is usually reduced to a special event or a project where students outsource the gospel message to someone on a stage. Matthew 28 says to “Go and make disciples.” Evangelism is a vital part of discipleship and personal spiritual growth.

  • This next year I will intentionally to share the gospel clearly at every youth meeting so our kids hear it, know it and share it. And also for any unbelievers who might be present because nothing else we talk about in youth group means a thing if someone present doesn’t know Christ.
  • This next year I will take teenagers deep into the Word by teaching theology and pushing them to be obedient to the application of the Word to their lives as they go wide with the gospel message. That means internalizing these principles myself first and modeling it for them.

Posted on September 18, 2008

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  • Tim, that sounds fantastic!! I love your SIMPLE mission, vision & values. I love your SIMPLE illustration/visual. I love your disciplined review of EVERYTHING that happens in the Youth Ministry according to the Deep & Wide principle.

    I thought our youth min was fairly simple, but you've inspired me to potentially simplify even more so that we can be as effective as possible in ministering to teenagers.

    Cheers!

  • Tim,

    Great stuff. Consider your ideas stolen.

    Adam

  • @ Adam Lehman: You can steal this if you want, but you'd be doing yourself a tremendous disservice by doing so. Seek the Lord for His vision for YOUR ministry. Otherwise, youth workers will always be jumping to the latest YM fad because they fail to learn that God's vision for one ministry can't be carbon copied to all.

  • Tim,

    I agree with you. Youth workers do a tremendous disservice to their youth parents,and church when they rely on the latest fads or try to copy what the youth ministry down the street or across the country is doing. Just imagine what youth minstries around the country would look like if EVERY youth worker sought the Lord's vision for their ministry.

  • Tim, you are right. We need to deeply know what God's vision for our ministry is for the obvious reasons of His blessing & growth of the Kingdom but also because we can't truly communicate someone elses vision. Yeah, sometimes our vision matches someone else's and life is awhile lot easier, but more often we are called to work through this stuff on our own.

  • Tim,

    I have a few questions/curiosities regarding your youth ministry contextual missional model.

    First, how are you going to measure or determine what kids are excited/interested/apathetic? And how often will you assess?

    We all know that the adolescent spiritual development is messy. An adolescent spiritual journey is like a roller coaster ride. Their freshman and sophomore year's they are loving Jesus and their senior year they are distant from Jesus.

    In my opinion, determining what kids are interested or what kids are apathetic is too subjective and actually very difficult to do. It is like trying to pin down mercury.

    Second, do you find that your students find your Biblical acronyms helpful?

    For some odd reason, my students dislike acronyms. They think they are cheesy and too basic and simple.

    Third, what are some of your core questions? Are you exploring other world religions? Are you giving them more of your denominational doctrine? Or are you teaching them the many perspectives with certain systematic topics?

    Fourth, how beneficial has your evangelism model of: Pray, Pursue, Persuade been? What is the feedback of the students who have tried to persuade their friends about Christ and it didn't work?

    Lastly, does your YM missional model go after assimilating these students into the church body? And are you doing activities that are more inter-generational?

  • @Tim in response to @Adam – great reply. One size never fits all. It's like going to Willow's youth conference and trying to do exactly what they do. You'll just burn yourself out and end up with lackluster results. Do the hard time by praying through what God has called YOU to do and then do it. Anything short of that is letting God down and letting yourself down. Not to mention the students that He has entrusted you with.

  • @ jeremy z: Good questions, man! Each one could be a novel, but lemme hit 'em briefly.

    1. I'm not interested in pegging each student into a apathetic/interested/excited/passionate box. The graph of spiritual maturity over time is not a straight upward arrow. It's a jagged line, sometimes with growth spurts and then later with setbacks. Evaluation is difficult and not always helpful as a true indication of the work of your ministry versus the role of the Holy Spirit in spite of you (which is always the case, by the way). Generally speaking, I think we'll have a very visible evaluation of it if kids are actually changing their lives by applying the Word, that sense of excitement and passion builds, and especially when their unsaved friends start coming to faith in Christ. Can't get much more tangible than that.

    2. Umm… never really asked them, actually. I don't use a lot, though, so I think I'm safe.

    3. You can find the 30 Core Questions in the Deep and Wide Thesis. I personally don't think it's a complete list, but it's a starting point anyway. We're combining some questions and digging deep into each one. (BTW, that thesis needs a LOT of revisions, so don't get too critical of it too quickly.)

    We hit some world religions naturally when we discuss the deeper theology behind what we believe as opposed to the heresies that other religions have adopted, but no, we're not intentionally studying other religions. I honestly find it odd that youth groups do that, actually. Do your teens have such a firm grip and understanding of scripture that the best use of your teaching time with them is to study someone else? I understand it's helpful because of the world they live in, but I think lies are easier to dicifer when you have a rock solid grip on the Truth.

    I'm not giving them my denomination's doctrine — I'm giving them MY doctrine since mine is the only one that's right. lol! Totally kidding! I actually disagree with my denomination is several key areas (which is why I can never be licensed or ordained here), but I have total freedom to teach what I believe. Usually I play devils advocate for all positions and let the kids argue with me using their typical Sunday school answers, which is great for stretching their thinking and understanding, showing them that it's not all black and white.

    4. No model of evangelism is beneficial or effective unless you and your teens actually USE it. I doesn't matter to me if we use Pray, Pursue, Persuade versus the 4 Spiritual Laws (what I grew up using) versus anything else. What's important is that you train them in something just for the sake of having a confidence booster, and then make sure they USE it.

    5. What do you mean, AFTER assimilating them into the church body? They already are assimilated. Hopefully that's a natural part of every church, not something that happens after they graduate because then it's too late.

    And yes, the inter-generational aspect is becoming bigger because the YM is being more intentional about partnering with parents (a section of my report that I didn't include here).

  • thanks tim.

    i meant after in the sense of pursuit, not after in the sense of completion. basically are you pursuing the assimilation philosophy of ym?

    do you have a sunday service for youth (both jr high and high school)? or are they encouraged to attend church with their families?

  • @ jeremy z: Nah, we don’t do “youth worship services.” I think that unintentionally communicates a misunderstanding of what church is and contributes to the 20-something dropout. I actually did a LIVE YM Talk on this. Listen to it here. Students and families are not only encouraged to attend church together, but we use teenagers in several key parts of our services and on Sunday mornings in general. I have a blog post coming up about that, actually. It’s been queued in the drafts for a while now.

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  • Tim,

    Did you and your team create that diagram/idea or did you adopt it and make it fit your program?

  • @Brandon: The vision was first cast to me from Greg Stier who put the graph together. He laid out some of the theoretical groundwork and I took it and put feet to it in real-life ministry. We’re both helping each other develop the vision for Deep & Wide.

    You can see his original take here (although, a second revision will be coming out next month).

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