We Know Enough!

Youth Specialties
July 12th, 2016

Michael’s post below is a great reminder of why it’s so important for us to gather together and encourage each other to move our ministries forward. Join us at the National Youth Workers Convention this fall in Cincinnati, OH to connect with and be challenged alongside the full family of youth workers.

It’s difficult to open Facebook or any other social media platform without finding a new list of “Five Essentials for a Thriving Youth Ministry” or some similarly titled blog, article, or list. We have more research available to us than ever before on the topic of healthy youth ministry. There are workshops, conferences, online classes, cohorts, and publishers available to help us discover what’s new and what’s next—and all of that’s great!

There was a time when the Ideas books—created by Mike Yaconelli and Wayne Rice in their garage—and a few denominational resources were about all that existed.

Since those days, I’ve added to my shelves and knowledge base Group Magazine, Youthworker Journal, and a number of books by successful youth pastors and critical thinkers. I attend the National Youth Workers Convention, GROUP conferences, ecumenical events, and denominational learning opportunities. I have access to all of the resources and events my budget and calendar allow plus websites, Facebook groups, and more online engagement opportunities than the gray matter between my ears can retain!

Basically, anyone with an Internet-enabled device has access to enough information to successfully implement a faith-formation ministry with youth. Young People’s Ministries, where I work, even has an online platform, the Field Guide Network, where leaders can connect to expert practitioners in dozens of areas of young people’s ministry—all for free!

With multiple sources of knowledge and online and in-person ministry support readily available, why aren’t our churches overflowing with youth growing in a vibrant faith? Why aren’t more of our youth inspired to change their world as they live out God’s call in their lives?

I think it goes back to the same challenge Mike and Wayne encountered. Here’s what Youth Specialties says the two of them saw as their main task: “Mike and Wayne set out to convince senior pastors and church boards that youth ministry was absolutely vital if the church was to grow and continue to reach people with the story of Christ.”

There seems to be a lack of will when it comes to sustained, day-to-day support and leadership for youth ministry in the local church. That challenge is not new, as you can see from the quotation above. I’ve never had a church leader who said he or she didn’t think youth ministry was vital for a healthy church. However, I have watched churches set their priorities elsewhere when it came to funding, staffing, and providing facilities for youth ministry—I’ve even seen this to be true for spiritual focus on youth ministry.

The sustained attention to youth (and youth ministry) needed in the church reminds me of something I once heard one of my senior ministers say. He was a prolific writer, and he rose at 4:00 a.m. each morning to begin his work. During a sermon one Sunday, he said, “Sometimes when the alarm goes off at 4:00 a.m., I’m not even sure I believe in God, but I still get up, do my daily devotion, and get a cup of coffee—because I know that I do believe in God.” That sustained knowledge was deeper than the feelings of the moment. The sustained knowledge of the importance of meaningful engagement with youth in the church goes beyond warm feelings as well—it requires a continuing, informed, multi-faceted ministry effort on the part of the church.

This fall, Fuller Youth Institute will be sharing results of an important research project that affirms what I’ve experienced. Consistent support and resourcing for youth (and youth ministry) that permeates the fabric of a congregation provides fertile ground for youth to become mature disciples of Jesus. It also strengthens the whole church. Check out Fuller’s Growing Young research this fall to learn some surprising twists about what it really means to prioritize young people.

There’s always more to know intellectually, spiritually, experientially, and relationally. It’s not that we need to stop researching, writing, reading, training, and everything else we do to equip ourselves for significant ministry with youth—it’s that we know enough to empower young people as thoughtful disciples of Jesus equipped to change the world. We just need the collective willpower to do it.

michael ratliffMichael Ratliff leads YPM for United Methodist Church staff working with all levels of church leadership and the Division on Ministries with Young People members to facilitate all aspects of our work globally.

Youth Specialties

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.