Recently, I was asked, “If you were to go back and do youth ministry again, how would what you know now change what you would do?” I had quite a few things on my list, (hindsight is amazing!) and here are two of them that are directly related to the Exemplary Youth Ministry study results.
So, if I were leading youth ministry again I would…
- Act theologically before programmatically. I often looked for the next “packaged program” to help me deliver the “message.” It could have been relational ministry, mission trips, musicals or milestones. Programs/methods offered a certain kind of structure that gave me comfort as a young person in ministry, often times in the midst of a lot of unknowns. I believed that I could adjust method to my theology. Now I know that I need to develop the intentions and mission first based on my theological convictions, and then work on figuring out the method of putting THAT mission into action.
- Be more of a spiritual director than a program director. The Exemplary Youth Ministry congregations focused on discipleship of students first and foremost. Their programs were to serve that goal, exclusively. I honestly wasn’t sure if my programs would fly if I was “just” about spiritual leadership. I had a limited view of what that meant. Now I know that “everything is spiritual.” I would give away a lot more programatic leadership in order to be able to ask the God question in individual student’s daily lives.
Rev. Nancy Lee Gauche worked in Children, Youth & Family ministry for 25 years — for YoungLife and in congregations. Today, she is program associate for the Center for Children Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary in St Paul, MN.