What we learned from the NYWC

I’m finally back in my apartment in Texas and am enjoying the peace and quiet. The flight from PA was also pretty empty so I again had the whole row to myself, which gave me room to spread out and be quite comfortable.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in my apartment door yesterday was the notebook I crammed full of thoughts and ideas during the National Youth Worker’s Convention in Nashville two weeks ago. I meant to take it home with me and blog about some of its contents, but, as mentioned in an earlier post, I accidentally left it behind. So, although this may be old news now, the information is still relevant.

Every evening over dinner the youth staff from Redeemer and myself discussed the information from the various seminars we attended, what we learned, how it applies to our ministry here in Carrollton, and personal areas of life that the Lord was challenging through it. Here’s a summary of what we discussed and it’s implications for us at Redeemer Covenant Church:

We need to spend more time listening to Jr. Highers than talking to them. We shouldn’t feel a need to have to come every Wednesday night with something deep and profound to communicate to them.

We need to make a big deal out of “little” accomplishments in our small groups and set low bars of achievement. We need to celebrate everything, even if it’s just the fact that someone remembered to bring their Bible.

It’s okay to be drawn to one student to mentor more than another. God places us in different people’s lives at different times for different purposes. We should not allow guilt or a false conception of “favoritism” to prevent us from investing more into one student than another. Follow the burden God places on your heart. Even little investments leave a lasting impression.

“I don’t know” is an acceptable answer. It communicates we are not know-it-alls. We should be willing to use it as a teaching moment both for the student and for ourselves when investigating the answer together.

Give the students an attainable challenge each time we meet. It doesn’t have to be something big or difficult — just something for them to work toward during the week and report about later.

We need to find ways to make worship more participatory, not just lead by someone up front. We need to be creative with ways to help engage students in worship and challenge their understanding of what worship really is. There needs to be a paradigm shift that views worship as not only singing, but using gifts and abilities, prayer, witnessing, honoring and respecting parents, etc.

Both the leaders and the students need to move from childish faith to child-like faith.

Youth ministry is not the end for our students. We need to remember that God will continue to work in their lives after they graduate from high school. Just because they leave and we think there was no fruit from our labor, God will continue to work in their lives through other people. Remembering that life-change is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit takes a lot of unnecessary pressure off us as leaders.

We need to be a presence in students’ lives by intentionally creating moments of contact, such as inviting them to run errands with us, helping us make dinner, inviting them to assist when working on the car, etc. Building relationships is key!

We need to let the students talk and we need to make sure we listen. We need to listen to what’s going on in their lives, what they’re thinking, their opinions and viewpoints, what makes them laugh, and what makes them upset.

Distractions are okay. We should not be afraid of them. It is more important to hear what the students have to say about what they’re thinking rather than promote our own agenda to complete something by a certain time. It’s okay if we don’t finish the lesson.

Posted on December 1, 2005

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