6 Things I Learned on My West Coast Trip
Two weeks ago I spent a week connecting with youth workers along the West Coast. The trip had a lot of purposes. One purpose was to check my assumptions of what I know from doing youth ministry for most of my adult life against current things that are happening in youth ministry.
Here are six things I learned while on my road trip:
- Soft innovation. By the end of the week I was amazed at something I expected to hear but never heard. No one ever said, “We're working on the Willow Creek thing.” or “Our church is implementing the NorthPoint model.” What a joy to discover youth workers who were post-copycatting models. Instead, we met countless youth workers who are going through the hard task of a missional approach to youth ministry in their community. I hope this trend continues!
- Less job worries. A year ago, most conversations with youth workers eventually came around to the fact that they were worried they may lose their job as the church struggled with its budget. On this trip, no one verbalized this. In fact, many people told me that the cuts last year were deep enough and that their boards were looking to restore and expand budgets in 2010.
- Healthy ministries are out there. It was encouraging for me to pop in on so many healthy churches. I tend to hear from and get prayer requests from ministries where the youth worker is distraught with their work situation. it was comforting and powerful to hear from many youth workers that their churches fully support their ministries.
- Neutral meeting spots matter, big time! For some reason I didn't think this was a big deal– but it totally is. It' way better to host meet-ups at a neutral place like a coffee shop or Christian college versus a church. I've got a lot of theories as to why, but all that matters is that a neutral location is pretty important.
- Local networks are hard to get going. In every meet-up we heard people lament about getting their local network going. It's as though everyone is aspiring to have a local group of youth workers who pray, encourage, and resource one another– but it's elusive.
- Foster care & adoption are huge among youth workers. Maybe this isn't a new trend, but I was shocked by the amount of youth workers who told us their adoption story or how they just became foster parents. Again, no idea if the proportion of youth workers who adopt/foster is higher than the rest of the population, but this trip revealed a high percentage of youth workers who were raising children they've either adopted or are fostering. Very cool!
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