I want to share with you 5 Ways to Avoid Becoming Irrelevant (to Teens):
1. Get Connected to Teens: I speak to a number of youth pastors each and every week. I’m always asking them questions about their ministry and how they do what they do. I’m very surprised by the number of them that seem to be disconnected from teens throughout the week. I believe one of the things that could cause you to become irrelevant to teens is by being disconnected from them. If you only talk to them on Sunday, you need to make a change. I encourage you to get in their world. Show up on their turf! Action item: Meet with a couple of students each week. Be intentional about getting connected to your students. Grab a cup of coffee, meet them for ice cream, or have lunch with them at school.
2. Reinvent Your Events: Another thing I’ve noticed in my conversations with youth ministers is how they seem to duplicate the same things every year in their ministry. The same camp, the same missions project, and the same events. Why is this? I understand we want some things to become a tradition or we feel that certain events will create momentum…but there are too many things available to us as leaders for us to be repeating everything we did last year. Just because it worked last year doesn’t mean it will work next year. Action item: Spend a day (or even a half a day) evaluating what events you are passionate about. Then determine which ones you could scrap and allow for new adventures or projects.
3. Ask Questions! When I’m around students, I am always asking questions. Often, getting a response from them is like pulling teeth…but I don’t give up. I ask questions like “What music do you enjoy?” “What do you and your friends like to do?” “What do you really like about what we do?” Sometimes, their responses give me great insight into determining how we should shape our ministry. Don’t be afraid to ask questions…and prepare yourself for their honesty! Action item: Determine a few questions that you’d like to ask students.
4. Think Outside the Box: Making some changes or tweaking things just a bit can make things really interesting. For example: we have a number of students who love to longboard. They will often bring them to church and ride before and after our services. One day, I decided to tell our Student Leadership Team to promote a “Bring Your Longboard to Church Day.” We had a lot of guests show up with longboard in hand that day! Things like this have helped us think outside the box about what we are doing in order to be more effective…and yes, more relevant to teens. Action item: Try anything once. Don’t be afraid to tweak something just for test purposes. Then debrief it with your leadership team and determine if you should try it again.
5. Let Teens Takeover: We have students leading in a lot of different areas in our ministry, but last fall when I felt the Lord leading me to step away from the mic and allow teens to completely takeover, I was skeptical. I took a few days and prayed over this idea. Then, within a couple months, we began a series called “STORY” and let students, who were already greeting and leading games and worship, take the mic, too! Teenagers were encouraged to tell their stories of how God had worked in their lives. God used this in many ways: It became our longest running series ever (3 months!), students invited their friends, and God used it to create a safe community where teens are comfortable sharing. Action item: Evaluate your ministry and question what areas you might give up control to youth. Then provide coaching to students who take you up on the offer and want to lead.
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