A couple years back I read the book, Simple Church, Return to God’s Process for Making Disciples, by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger. To my surprise, this book helped me realize an unfortunate truth about how I thought of the church and youth ministry. I know I did it as a young youth worker, and I know a number of others have done it. Some may still be doing it even now. We don’t do it on purpose, but sometimes in the excitement of “building” our ministry we make the dangerous decision to do it our way. When we do it our way, it doesn’t take long to discover you are now on the youth ministry island.
When I was still young and cutting my teeth in student ministry, I read, The Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, by Doug Fields. Doug helped to reshape how I did ministry. He shared 5 purposes that my youth ministry should have. It was a great book! To this day it’s still one of my favorite books.
Upon completing of the book, I immediately began reformatting my entire ministry. Everything was effected by the overhaul. Some programs were scrapped. New programs were launched. There were trainings held for my leaders, parent meetings to introduce and explain the changes, and clever promotional tools created to wow our students. It was a very exciting time.
We launched and were amazed by what happened. In just about a year, the ministry exploded. We grew rapidly. Students were experiencing transformation in their lives. Adults were coming to me to volunteer with our ministry. Students wanted to be in places of leadership. It was an incredible season of ministry.
While the ministry looked great, I realize now that I had made a huge mistake. I did what the book suggested. I created a purpose statement that defined the ministry I felt God wanted. I developed core values and a structure that worked for our student ministry. But the PDYM model was created to support the larger purpose-driven model that Saddleback held. In my case, the larger church didn’t have this model. Now there is nothing wrong with creating a purpose. But when we create a ministry that doesn’t reflect the purpose of the church, we can find ourselves on the youth ministry island. My statement reflected the purpose of the student ministry.
I didn’t think anything of it then, but as I look back I can see the danger of NOT aligning the direction and purpose of the student ministry with the ministry and direction of the church. In a very real way, I created a division between what the church was doing and what the student ministry was doing. We had a separate purpose statement, a separate vision, and a separate way of doing things. Essentially I created a church within a church. And for the sake of the church, that wasn’t healthy.
What would happen if instead of creating our own purpose statements, we worked to understand and support the church’s purpose? Instead of separating our ministry from the church, what would it look like if we aligned our efforts with the direction of our church?
This week, I want to have a conversation about how we align our student ministries with the overriding mission of the church. So, let’s ask the question? Does the mission, structure, goals, branding, and activities of your youth ministry align with the mission, vision, goals, structure, branding, and activities of the church you are serving in? Or, are you running your ministry as though you are another group that uses the building one night week?
Join us this week as we dive into the importance of leaving the youth ministry island to reconnect with the church to serve student and their families well.
Written by Jay Higham.
Something to think about…
- How would you rank the relationship of your middle school ministry to the larger, over reaching ministry of your church?
1 – They have little idea about what we are trying to do with our middle school students.
5 – I think the get what we’re doing with middle school students, but I’m not really sure.
10 – They love our middle school students and see them as part of the larger church family.
- Are you inline with the church mission and vision, or are you using a separate mission/vision with your middle school ministry?