Put very simply, many Youth Ministries are functionally churches within the church. They operate separately, they have different names, identities, calendars and generally don't interact a whole lot with the Body as a whole. In other churches, where integration with the whole Body is a concern, effort is made to put teens into roles they are really uncomfortable with. That is…the issue gets forced and never really gets solved. New Vintage Church is serious about the leadership development of teens and church-wide embracing of Student Ministry.
In addition to the things mentioned in the 3 previous posts, here are 3 things you can do to integrate Youth Ministry into the bloodstream of the church:
- Youth Ministry mission and vision should match that of the church as a whole. Nomenclature, logos, etc., can be different. But, the primary aim of Youth Ministry should a scaled-to-teen version of the church vision. It's common and fine for Youth Ministries to have a different name, "brand," etc. Just make sure the aim remains the same. If it isn't, it'll create sideways energy in the church and silo the Youth Ministry.
- Create some direct overlap between the Youth calendar and the church's calendar. This means that when a parent gets their Summer Calendar, some events on there are all-church events (i.e., events the whole church is doing). There's a lot of room for play here, but 20% is a number I like. For instance, one of NVC's summer beach devotionals is going to be advertised church-wide, but it's also listed on the youth calendar. These are small…but it gets.
- Involve teens in leadership of the church. I don't mean as elders, obviously. I do mean in key roles of service–not just clean-up or in the nursery. At NVC, teens run media during worship, play in the band, help direct set-up and tear-down of assemblies, work in Children's Ministry, and help lead their own small groups. All of these help prepare them for further leadership in the church and build investment in the church as a whole. It also gets teens serving alongside others in the church. Another side benefit is that when teens get the "cool jobs" in church, it makes it more socially acceptable to serve in the church in teen world.
Here's one idea for churches where you play music before/after services: let the teens come up with the play-list. Set the broadest parameters possible…and let 'em go.
What are some other things your churches are doing to integrate teens into the life of the Body?