Connecting with Other Local Youth Workers: YS Idea Lab with Fred Oduyoye

Jacob Eckeberger
April 8th, 2016

Fred Oduyoye is the Director of Networks for Youth Specialties and has been caring for both students and youth workers for more than 2 decades. One of his great passions is working to connect people with the resources they need to get where God is leading them. That’s why he leads YSNetworks.com, YSUnconference.com, and is our main point of contact for any denominational or network leader. With so much experience bringing people together, Fred took a few minutes at the National Youth Workers Convention to share some tips on connecting with other local youth workers in this YS Idea Lab.

If you don’t have time to watch the full interview, here are a few of my favorite tips that Fred shared.

Do the work to find people around you.

The majority of us probably don’t enjoy stepping outside of our comfort zones and initiating contact with folks who we haven’t met before. It’s hard when people don’t respond, or when they say they aren’t interested. But you know what’s even more difficult? Doing ministry as an island, all by ourselves. We won’t last that way because we are meant for each other. Being together, in the same room, creates an energy and an excitement that is well worth the initial awkwardness of starting the conversation.

If you’ve never tried to connect with other youth pastors in your area, here are a few things you can do right away:

  1. Email the youth pastors at 10 churches within a 20 mile radius. Let them know a specific day and a specific time when you’ll be at your favorite coffee shop, and invite them to hangout. Odds are, half of them won’t be available, but if you can get 3-5 there for a conversation, you’re off to a good start.
  2. Ask your denominational offices if they would introduce you to other youth pastors in your denomination.
  3. Use YSNetworks.com to find other networks that are happening near your zipcode.

Build off the last moment of every gathering.

Fred shared this really great tip for helping make sure the conversations you have at your network gatherings actually lead to change and growth. He shares the example of using the very first gathering for the basic introductions, describing initial things about each ministry, and then culminating in an honest conversation about what’s happening in each other’s worlds. The trick, Fred says, is to always use the last moment in your network gathering as the starting moment in the next gathering. That way you don’t just repeat the same conversations—“Tell us about your ministry…”—but you build off of the ones you’ve already had. This creates movement in the conversation, and if one person’s situation hasn’t progressed, you then have the opportunity to offer resources and suggestions to help move them forward.

Take advantage of bigger, regional network events.

Just like in your youth ministry, your local network needs the occasional special event to generate some excitement and fresh energy. One way to do that is to create a regional gathering that brings several networks together. YSUnconference is one of those events that can fill that need for you. It’s a free event, Fred shows up to help facilitate conversations, and we even provide lunch—that’s not pizza. The beauty of a YSUnconference is that there is no pre-set agenda. You decide what you want to talk about, Fred provides a little perspective of what’s happening globally within youth ministry, and then Fred creates space for you to guide what’s happening locally within your community. Check out more information at YSUnconference.com, and if you don’t see one in your area, you can sign-up to host one.

Use Fred to create opportunities for your network.

Fred Oduyoye is one of those secret resources that not many youth workers know about. The wonderful thing about him being the Director of Networks, is that his energy is largely focused on connecting with you and supporting you in whatever way you need it. Here are a few quick ways that you can use Fred:

  1. Let Fred know when your network meets, and he can show up to one.
  2. Introduce Fred to your denominational office as a resource for training and discounts to NYWC and our other events.
  3. Connect with Fred about hosting a YSUnconference for youth ministry networks in your region.
  4. Ask Fred for anything else that you need to do ministry well. Odds are, he’ll know how to get it or how to help find a solution.

Email Fred at Fred.Oduyoye@youthspecialties.com and learn more about how he can help you and your ministry network.

The YS Idea Labs are filmed on location at the National Youth Workers Convention. Check out more YS Idea Labs HERE.and register early for NYWC to save BIG: NYWC.COM.

JACOB ECKEBERGER is the Content Manager at Youth Specialties, an itinerant worship leader, the spouse of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. You can find him blogging about social media and digital strategy ideas at JACOBECKEBERGER.COM.

Jacob Eckeberger

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.