Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Youth Ministry: Family Based? (by Chris Folmsbee)

posted by Scot McKnight

Here is a recognized youth ministry leader who is asking us for some help. Let’s pool our ideas and see what we can say…

Since I began posting here several months ago I have received a dozen
or so requests for me to post on “family-based youth ministry.”   For
those of you who have been requesting this, I think you might be
disappointed with this post.  Honestly, I have no idea what to say
about family based youth ministry.  I mean, I know how some are
defining it and I think I like the idea of it, generally speaking, but
I have no idea what it means to be a family-based youth ministry. 

Can
somebody help me out with this?

I’ve read some portions of books and articles, sat in some seminars
here and there and I’ve been in a ton of conversations about the
importance of family-based youth ministry.  However, I still haven’t
really witnessed a youth ministry who is truly shaping a family-based
youth ministry where the “God-designed structures of the nuclear family
and the extended family of the church are helping young people grow
toward mature Christian adulthood.”   I’m not sure I could even begin
to explain it in a coherent way


 
Do I think the family has a role in the spiritual formation of their children?  Of course I do.  Do I think that the local faith community has a responsibility to create environments for the spiritual formation of others children?  Of course I do.  Do I think that youth ministries and families need to be in harmony and working together to support one another in our roles and responsibilities?  Of course I do.  Do I know how to structure a youth ministry in such a way that does this effectively?  Of course I don’t.  Does anybody? 

Can someone help me better understand what it looks like for a youth ministry to be family-based?  For those of you who are in the process of shaping family-based youth ministries, what does it look like?  I mean, what kinds of things are you doing that are different than the “conventional” youth ministry models?
 
So, I thought that rather than trying to reveal my ignorance on the issue, I’d rather sit back and learn from those of you who are doing it.  Here are some questions that I would love some thoughts on (and so would the group of people who’ve requested this theme).
?    Is there a need for a youth pastor/worker in a family-based model?
?    What does discipleship/formation look like in a family-based model?
?    How do you go about this in cooperation with the other staff or workers in your church (for example, the children’s ministry)
?    How does the ‘youngish’ in age youth pastor/worker even lead parents of teenagers toward such a model? (Of course, I am assuming that there is a need for a youth pastor/worker in such a model.)
?    Does it work?  Do you have any ‘success’ stories to share?  What defines success?
?    Where might I go to get some really good help on better understanding what family-based youth ministry is?
?    How do the youth in your faith community feel about family-based youth ministry?

Again, I’d really love to be informed on this topic.  I long for youth ministries to be more proactive in working with the family in process of spiritual formation of youth for the mission of God and I think there are many others like me out there.  Help!  Where do we go with this?



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Deborah

posted May 22, 2009 at 8:22 am


Family based youth ministry makes sense, especially in a denomination like mine with infant baptism. Youth and family ministry for that matter should be an extension of the baptism covenant, with the family and the church walking together in faith, guiding, instructing, celebrating milestones, growing in discipleship.
The ELCA church in our area is doing this well (and there is some interesting and fun curriculum through Faith Inkubators that guides youth pastors and families to work together wholistically).
However, I am sad to say, that my experience is that most parents feel inadequate in the areas of faith development and are content with getting their kids to church, maybe Sunday School and our midweek program.
I think that to be fair the church has missed out and we are going to have to spend some time intentionally blurring the lines between age groups and helping to rebuild these ties. Is there a role for the youth pastor? Absolutely! As a parent of older youth, I know that my job is to grow out of a job – so I look to youth pastors to be there for my child as another wise adult and mentor as I am helping her grow into the person God created her to be.
Bottom line – I believe all of our ministries with youth and children should have a parent/family component.



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Deek Dubberly

posted May 22, 2009 at 9:07 am


1. Is there a need for a youth pastor/worker in a family-based model?
-No, not really. More like a youth (pastor)/facilitator.
2. What does discipleship/formation look like in a family-based model?
-Parents are the primary disciplers. Church volunteers and/or youth (pastor)/facilitators are secondary and always point towards the greater/more biblically-consistent significance of the family and their more basic role.
3. How do you go about this in cooperation with the other staff or workers in your church (for example, the children’s ministry)
-The entire church should be a family-based. not just the youth ministry
4. How does the ‘youngish’ in age youth pastor/worker even lead parents of teenagers toward such a model? (Of course, I am assuming that there is a need for a youth pastor/worker in such a model.)
-The assumption may be a poor one, then?that is, unless the role of the youth pastor was to change dramatically. The ?youngish? youth pastor/worker will need to create a youth ministry environment that reveals both to the students and parents alike what I believe is the more biblically-consistent discipleship hierarchy: parents are to be the most basic and foundational part of the discipleship process. To the extent that the family is absent in this process (assuming poor or nonexistent spiritual quality on their part of their parents) youth workers are to be that much more involved in the life of the student?s discipleship.
5. Does it work? Do you have any ‘success’ stories to share? What defines success?
-Without a doubt, the most successful students I?ve ever pastored were the one?s with discipling, nurturing parents that were active in the church.
6. Where might I go to get some really good help on better understanding what family-based youth ministry is?
-I believe Voddie Bachuam has some good stuff out on or related to this (voddiebaucham.org).
7. How do the youth in your faith community feel about family-based youth ministry?
-They just want to be loved. And, if they are, they feel fine about it.



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Jim Marks

posted May 22, 2009 at 9:11 am


This sounds too much like trying to get youth ministry to replace secondary education as “in loco parentis”. There’s a good reason why secondary education has failed to do this well (and it isn’t the secular control of the school board) and youth ministry is even less well situated to take this on (in spite of nearly zero secular corrupting influence).



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Travis Greene

posted May 22, 2009 at 9:13 am


Why should parents be involved? Isn’t it enough to take your kids to church? What are we paying you people for?
Kidding. We absolutely need greater connections between youth ministry and families/other adults. It shouldn’t be the mini-church ghetto you kill time in before graduating to “real church”. Which, of course, nobody advocates, but it’s frequently what happens.
Some of the greatest impact on me as a youth came from adults who participated in the youth ministry, and particularly those who didn’t have kids in the youth group. The senior adults who were clueless about music or whatever, but who faithfully spent time cultivating relationships with a bunch of kids. Those saints were also never the adults who complained we were too loud or rambunctious and seemed to see youth as a necessary evil.
I think generational cross-pollinization is the key here. If you have a youth group and a senior adult group, it shouldn’t be too hard to find some way for them to interact, maybe around some mission-oriented task. It may be difficult and awkward at first, but it’s worth it.



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Don Bryant

posted May 22, 2009 at 9:14 am


I think FBYM is mostly a mindset, where we place our confidence. In the book Folmsbee asserts there is no statistical correlation between teen Christ-followers who have matured into adult Christ-followers and the presence of a youth pastor or a larger, more programmatically driven youth group. Just doesn’t show up on the chart. What does show up are Christ-following “adults” to whom the youth have had significant exposure, beginning with mom and dad, and integration into the life of the church rather than the hothouse conditions of intensive and demanding youth ministry programs (which, by the way, do not usually capture the more academically, athletically, and service oriented kids because they do not have the time to meet the three meetings a week schedule at church youth functions). FBYM would, first, mean advising parents of this phenomenon. FBYM would mean, second, placing some constraints on out of control youth programming. FBYM would mean, thirdly, seeking older youth staff who are clearly in the adult world. This takes more money and it requires the church to rise above the “youth pastor as summer camp counselor” model. Fourth, FBYM would mean not assuming that your second full-time staff is a youth pastor. This is asking for trouble. Fifth, it would mean not segmenting the youth so radically as some congregations, particularly the larger ones, do. In such churches, children and youth have no significant exposure to corporate worship. By the time they reach college almost all their church experiences have been youth experiences. No wonder so many drop out in college. They have never learned that not everything is to cater to them. So much about church is learning not to have to have it your way. So much about youth ministry, it has seemed to me, is counter to that.
I do believe that more programmatic youth ministry comes into its own when reaching kids who have not access to church because their parents are not Christians, like was true of much of the Sunday School movement in its early beginnings.
Will parents get on board with these kinds of perspectives? Rarely have I seen it. Their default position is a 22 year old kid out of bible college who will spend time with their kids and keep church attractive. I can’t say that I deem that a model that is successful.



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nAncY

posted May 22, 2009 at 11:29 am


i am just a little bird
flying by
to tell you of a poem
that was written
for you
http://www.goodwordediting.com/poem-for-scot-mcknight-bird-watching/859/#comments
tweet!



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Jason Powell

posted May 22, 2009 at 12:00 pm


I didn’t get a chance to read all of the above comments…so forgive me if this repeats something someone else said.
One way to undo some of the damage to youth groups and church/family/community integration is to eliminate the “age specific” “worship” times. You know…where the kids leave the main body of the church to go “worship” (ie hear a youth oriented praise band) instead of staying involved in much of the corporate aspect of church worship.
If they stay during regular worship gatherings are they not:
a. involved better with the church community?
b. connected better to their families?
c. drawn into the corporate worshipping mandate of the church?
It seems to me if we kept our youth “in worship” and then met at some other time with them for discipleship and age appropriate teaching we would have one foot well down the road for involving the family and the church in the spiritual nurture of our kids.



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Kenton

posted May 22, 2009 at 12:19 pm


The term “Family Based Youth Ministry” (I hadn’t heard the term before this post) just SOUNDS LIKE, “not letting youth have so much access to the mentor role a youth pastor provides, and parents re-exerting their control on their kids life. (Almost an extension of the more extreme side of the home school movement and its associated courting-as-opposed-to-dating movement?)
I could be way off, but if so, maybe they need to come up with a new term.
I DO like the idea of more mature leaders for youth. (My youth pastors both had families when they led my youth group.)But they should still have that youthful mindset. And I like the idea of not over-programming youth activities and including youth in corporate worship. Having said that, access to a well qualified youth worker can and should have an enormous impact on an adolescent’s spiritual development beyond what a parent can provide in a time when children struggle to become independent.



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Alejandro

posted May 22, 2009 at 1:32 pm


What is meant by a “family-based” model?



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Doris Renshaw

posted May 22, 2009 at 1:37 pm


Try a new Bible Study that explores the parable of jesus in terms easily understood by today’s culture.
You Can Take It To The Bank by D.M. Renshaw amazon/com



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Dave

posted May 22, 2009 at 1:54 pm


The best family based youth ministries are careful not to swing too far away from the church. Some who have embraced this model seem to think that a Christian teenager has no place serving in/being served by the body of Christ. I would even say that some have bordered on making an idol of the family.
If you’re looking for good examples of ministries who are successfully applying this model I’ve appreciated the ministry of Steve Wright and his book ReThink. He starts from the presupposition that God has placed both the church and the family in the lives of Christian teenagers. I recently attended a conference at his church Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh and was very encouraged by what I saw and heard.



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Brian

posted May 22, 2009 at 2:37 pm


“Uniting Church and Home” by Eric Wallace is worth a read.



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Bret

posted May 22, 2009 at 3:10 pm


The “Family Based” approach has been around for a while – Mark DeVries book was pretty popular when I was in youth ministry. The strengths of this approach go even beyond refocusing the locus of influence in the home (as several commenters have noted) and reach toward a Psalm 145 experience where, “one generation will commend you works to another.” This is the only view of youth ministry that makes any sense.
If the major purpose of adolescence is (theoretically) to learn to be an adult, and the purpose for Christian teens is to learn to be an adult follower of Christ, how can this goal be achieved by surrounding oneself solely with other adolescents?
However my primary critique against the family based approach is that it assumes that the primary function of a youth ministry should be to provide for the children of believers. There is little vision for seeking out the broken and abandoned teens who fill our communities – many of whom have no positive adult influence in their lives.
Some churches have decided that taking care of their members’ kids is an acceptable vision for a youth ministry…that sounds a lot like babysitting to me, but I honor each congregation’s right to make that decision.
However, if our vision is to bring light where there is darkness, hope where there is despair and life where there is death then it seems that we need to find ways to connect with teens for whom a “family based” approach makes no sense.
Where the children already in our congregations are concerned, a “family” approach – particularly the whole family of God that meets in that location – makes a lot of sense. And with that use of the word family, perhaps there is a “family based” approach that will bless and proclaim good news to the masses of teens for whom family has been a disappointment.



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Paul Sheneman

posted May 22, 2009 at 3:20 pm


One question that I have is, “What is the role of the family in the ekklesia?” I think that this question needs to be addressed before we can have meaning conversations regarding “family based youth ministry”. In that vain, I wonder how the following article informs our understanding of the family in connection to youth ministry.
http://www.youthspecialties.com/freeresources/articles/family/different_view.php



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Dave

posted May 22, 2009 at 3:41 pm


Bret,
“Some churches have decided that taking care of their members’ kids is an acceptable vision for a youth ministry…that sounds a lot like babysitting to me, but I honor each congregation’s right to make that decision.”
Is it the purpose of the church gathered to do outreach? Isn’t that the heart of the attractional model that has (rightfully) come under attack in recent years?
Too many Christians have confused the purposes of the church gathered and the church scattered. I actually think that if I take care of “church kids” (not entirely comfortable with calling them that) then I am equipping them to go out and be effective ministers in their schools and in their comunities. So, in the youth group setting my primary purpose (and I would emphasize primary if I had a way to italicize) is to build up Christians and those who are very interested in Christ. As a result, those maturing Christian kids go out and function as salt and light in the community.
I personally think that the family model of ministry fits nicely with this approach. Those students who do come to our group as a result of their friends’ ministry are then cared for, not just by student ministry, but by families within our student ministry thus quickly integrating them into the larger body of Christ.



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Randy

posted May 22, 2009 at 4:40 pm


It seems to me that there are some assumptions here about not only youth ministry, but about church or The Church itself.
The first assumption appears to be that the church is ministering primarily to intact nuclear families. I would ask how many of our churches and how many of our young people this would include?
Secondly, there appears to be an assumed disjuncture between adults and young people. This suggests that we need to ask “What places are there for young people in the church as a whole?” This seems particularly important in churches where infant baptism is practiced, and so some kind of covenant assumed.
Just some thoughts.
Peace,
Randy



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Randy

posted May 22, 2009 at 4:43 pm


I would like to add one thought to my previous post.
Perhaps the bast place to build family into youth ministry is in regular counter-cultural family activities as a family.
Eating together as a family is increasingly rare in society. It is now counter-cultural.
This would require changes in parental behavior and everyone else’s behavior in order to keep commitments to each other, which is radical in itself.
Peace,
Randy



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Peggy

posted May 22, 2009 at 4:46 pm


A community planting vision has been percolating in my mind and heart for three and a half years now, and one of the components is this very thing: bring a community together where all the ages and stages of family are represented. When will it be ready to launch, Lord? I’m doing my best to use my time of waiting as a time of preparation….
I must say, however, that my summer church camp experience in Central Michigan in the 60s & 70s was so very different from what I have seen elsewhere, that I was reminded of it by this article.
In my camping experience, the “counselors” were all college age students, not high school students. There is a big difference, IMO. Then, all the various “classes” taught throughout the day were with ministers from around the State. The term “youth minister” really didn’t exist much, yet. So, these ministers (and usually their families) spent the week with us — giving us dynamic role models, indeed.
Then, in high school, the two weeks of High School Camp were embedded in a State Wide Camp Meeting — so that all the big name preachers and teachers and worship leaders were there and held wonderful services in the evening — and spent their days with the students. WOW!
Anyway, I think things went down some when the “senior” ministers turned camp over to the “youth” ministers … just my opinion.



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MattB

posted May 22, 2009 at 8:16 pm


Our youth ministry has made a concerted effort to become “family-based”, with full endorsement from the pulpit by the senior pastor. We intentionally try to change church ministry “tradition”, and run parallel with the children’s ministry and small group ministries rather than be disconnected, or what they call “siloes”. How we attempt to be family based in our youth ministry is basically by involving adults/parents in the ministry as much as possible: as small group leaders, activity leaders, event hosts, chapperones, worship leaders, hospitality, prayer team, etc. Each adult who participates is given clear expectations (somewhat like a job description) as to their role in the ministry, which hopefully matches their gifts.
We begin the year (late summer) with an orientation bbq, at which time we lay out the yearly calendar, and identify all the upcoming events/meetings where we need volunteer help. We get buy-in by having parents/adults sign-up to lead various parts of the ministry (worship coordinator, hospitality coordinator, small group coordinator, activities coordinator, etc.) We then invite all the other parents/adults to sign up for different responsibilities within each of the calendar events and activities. The coordinators manage their area throughout the year, and work as a team to organize the other volunteers.
After 1 full year with this emphasis, I do have to say we have more adults/parents involved in the lives of our youth than ever before. In fact, I sometimes have more adult/parent support than is required to facilitate youth ministry meetings. (This raises a new dilemma of giving adults/parents meaningful roles within the ministry)
? Does it work? Do you have any ‘success’ stories to share? What defines success?
I’ll share one success story. We went on a mission trip this spring, and brought 8 parents along on the trip. One particular parent had not been very involved in the ym, but decided to join us on the mission trip last minute. She was moved during a teaching portion of our inner-city missions trip, and returned home to implement family bible study in her home. Each family member researched a fruit of the Spirit, then shared each week what they had learned, and how they saw that fruit of the Spirit manifesting in the lives of their family members. This was organically produced…she came up with this family activity on her own, through the leading of the Holy Spirit. To me, that is the greatest success – when parents tune into the Spirit’s leading in their family, and implement an activity where they gather around God’s Word together.
? How do the youth in your faith community feel about family-based youth ministry?
This is the rub…does family based youth ministry display drastic changes in the spiritual lives of the youth? I think it has greater impact on the adults and parents. As time marches on in this ministry approach, the hope is that the families with be involved together in ministry, and positive changes will take place. For now, some kids respond well, some resent the fact that their parents are around during youth events. The true testing ground is in the family home, so it’s really hard to gauge the positive effect within the lives of the youth in the ym environment and in their campus environment.
The effectiveness of family based ministries within any church ministry hinges upon the ability of parents to manage their homes in a Christ honoring, worshipful manner.



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Jim Kast-Keat

posted May 22, 2009 at 8:28 pm


Great questions Chris.
If only this “problem” could be solved in a simple answer. However with every differing church community and size and context and culture will come (and has to come) a different “solution.”
I think one thing that has to happen for this dearly needed idea to come to life is for the church and it’s workers/leaders to partner with the parents and families rather than simply waiting for or expecting them to join us. What are they already doing? And how can we empower it, join it, and see better things happen as a result.
I say this from anticipation rather than experience. My community is beginning to ask these same questions. (It’s about time!)
But in the midst of it all, I know one thing is absolutely necessary for the process: MAKE HASTE SLOWLY.



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Matt (Synchronicity Podcast)

posted May 22, 2009 at 9:27 pm


I’m a parent of three kids who are currently in a youth group, and we have been at two churches (and the kids part of two different youth groups) during the last few years. Their youth director, who is almost my age, is also a good friend of mine, and we’ve had a lot of chances to talk about youth ministry. Likewise, my wife serves as an occasional mentor to a female youth director in our area so – while we are FAR from experts on the subject – we do have a little perspective on it.
These questions intrigue me because I’ve had a lot of conversations on similar subjects with my kids, my friend, and my wife.
Some reflections:
1. I think you should make sure that “family based youth ministry” is further defined before you decide whether it is a helpful concept or not. If you are a youth minister in charge of a youth ministry then, the ministry cannot – in a structural sense – be “family based.” The existing structure makes you responsible for the ministry. On the other hand…
2. …if “family based youth ministry” means finding ways to work with what families are doing in forming/raising their kids, then that concept may be more palatable. However, better to think of it as wholistic/systemic youth ministry than “family based.”
3. Some things to think about: If your youth group includes at-risk teens, they are likely to be spiritually “orphaned.” How can you structure things so that they don’t feel left out when all of the family-oriented activities and talk about “you and your family” get started?
4. What are you going to do about situations where, even if the parents are church-going folk, the relationship between teen and family is strained? You can’t always play Dr. Phil in these situations. How will the same family-oriented structures and activities work when parent and teen can’t stand the sight of each other?
5. A lot of families with teens are very, very busy. There are probably going to be some parents who, though deeply committed to the spiritual formation of their kids, may not be in a position to attend every program and activity that you plan. What about the kids who, though they are in great families, will often have parents absent from youth activities?
I don’t say this to discourage you from thinking about ways that you can work with families who are willing to work with you. However, I do suggest that you consider whether a fluid, highly adaptable structure (one which accommodates a whole spectrum of family and non-family situations) is going to be needed in your situation. I also suggest that adapting the structure for teens with parents who can work with you will vary from teen-to-teen (and even year to year!), and that it will perhaps, even need to be accomplished with some degree of subtlety. You may need to resist the temptation to plaster the word “family” over every activity to satisfy your lead pastor or oversight committee, particularly when it is going to work against your efforts to reach at-risk youth.
Peace,
Matt



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Chris

posted May 23, 2009 at 3:15 am


One of the first lessons I learned about youth ministry was that youth ministry is not about the youth. It is about the parents. Seven years later, I find this insight to be one of the most important lessons I learned about serving a congregation.
This idea is pretty simple – at best, a student will be apart of a youth program for 6-7 years. Before those years, parents are the most influential people in their lives. During those years, parents are the most influential people in their lives. After those years, parents are the most influential people in their lives. Therefore, a youth workers job is to help that relationship during the difficultly of adolescence by reinforcing Christian messages and being a bridge between two very different generations with different cultural identities.
This is necessary a family-based model, however, it certainly has elements present with said model.
Is there a need for a youth pastor/worker in a family-based model?
Yes. There needs to be someone in between to help lines of communication between the two, help educate both sides on each others history and culture, to continue to encourage discipleship, teach biblical history, encourage acts of faithfulness, etc… A youth pastor can be very helpful in these areas if trained to well.
What does discipleship/formation look like in a family-based model?
The youth worker should not be just teaching students, but also their parents (and grandparents). The youth worker needs to help these cultures understand each other and themselves.
How do you go about this in cooperation with the other staff or workers in your church (for example, the children’s ministry)
Collaborate and Communicate. If a children’s pastor is having a problem with one of their students, talk to the youth pastor about any possible trends they see in the older children in the family. If the sr. pastor is doing a workshop on parenting, invite the youth pastor or children’s pastor to participate in teaching the class.
How does the ‘youngish’ in age youth pastor/worker even lead parents of teenagers toward such a model?
the youngish pastor is exactly the one who should be helping parents understand what their kids are going through. Actually, the ideal age for a person working with high school students right now is 25 for they are share in the cultural marker that define teens. Even workers in their late 20′s don’t understand some of the nuances of teens because they never experienced some of the things teens just take for granted.
? Does it work? Do you have any ‘success’ stories to share? What defines success?
You can’t define “success” in youth ministry without falling into many of the trappings of “white upper/middle class” culture. Success far too often falls under business models that emerged in the 60′s and are not appropriate in youth work. Better language surrounds notions like “depth” or “faithful.” Are your students growing closer to Jesus in ways that challenge their mind as well as their heart and soul? If so, you are doing a great job! If you define success by size or numbers, then you have fallen out of the arena of faithful for you are using these kids as a means to an end and not as an end in themselves (for further analysis, see Bonhoeffer’s Ethics).
A lot more should be said about this, but if you have read this far, you are probably saying, “When will this person stop?” Soon. I promise.
? Where might I go to get some really good help on better understanding what family-based youth ministry is?
This generation’s youth workers need more training in adolescent and family counseling and they need to begin taking on more of that role, as well as teacher (Please, teach your students the Bible!). I have a lot of respect for Fuller, even though I didn’t attend.
One more thing, turn back to the classics, Augustine, Bernard, Catherine of Siena, etc… There is so much wisdom there.
? How do the youth in your faith community feel about family-based youth ministry?
Conflicted, i think. They do want to do their own thing, become their own people, and separate from their families on some level. And they need some of that. But they also need to be encouraged to invite their dad to movie sometimes, or feel encouraged to go on that family picnic their friends are making fun of.
Anytime a youth worker can encourage their youth to spend more time with their family (even at the expense of going to a youth event or church), the better their family dynamic will be. Because at the end of the day, what is more important. Parents praying, worshiping, serving and studying separately from their kids or family coming together and finding out they have been the church all along?



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Mike H.

posted May 23, 2009 at 12:51 pm


You provided a definition of family-based youth ministry as one where, “God-designed structures of the nuclear family and the extended family of the church are helping young people grow toward mature Christian adulthood.”
As far as I can tell, “nuclear family” is still defined as one mom, one dad, and one or more children. But a person would be hard-pressed to find this as a standard model for families in the Bible. This family-based definition thus begs the question of whether the nuclear family really is “God-designed.”
There are at least two ways in which biblical marriages differ from modern nuclear families. First, they often involved one man with more than one woman with whom he fathered children. Sometimes they were fathered with female slaves, servants, and concubines as well. The wider family (including aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) was also a more tightly knit unit than is common today. Very few of us now live in the same household or on the same land as our cousins.
The smaller nuclear family did not become a virtuous ideal until sometime around the Industrial Revolution, when the rise of the middle class encouraged smaller families who were more independent from their other relations. Thus, it might be more accurate to claim that the nuclear family was designed by capitalism than by God.
Therefore, privileging the nuclear family is not necessarily a good idea. It implies that non-nuclear families (large households, divorced households) are inherently angering God.
The second half of the definition, about the role of the extended church family, deserves more consideration. The case could be made that nuclear families, by becoming insular and inward-looking, cut themselves off from the spiritual resources of the church. What would it look like if the task of child-rearing was shared by an entire congregation?
In the church were I grew up, the congregation vowed to help raise each child who was baptized there. But I’m not sure if this vow was lived out as fully as it could have been.



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Sally K

posted May 23, 2009 at 10:31 pm


Hi, all
I have never commented here before, though I enjoy & learn much from reading this blog. However, “family-based youth ministry” is fundamental to our congregation, and has been a shaping force in our family, and an immense blessing, so I must comment!
Our church (New England, UCC, mostly white, highly educated, financially all over the place, probably 300 people on a sunday) has two pastors. One, the “senior” minister, has the title “pastor & teacher;” the other, the “youth minister,” has the title “Minister of Christian Nurture,” a title she took from the 19th century Calvinist theologian, Horace Bushnell. Bushnell believed that it was possible for a child born into a Christian family to be raised in such a way as never to have been a non-Christian; he believed that we are born spiritually neutral, and with proper nurturing, emerge as full-grown Christians.
Sooo, our ministers goal is to create a nurturing environment for Christians across the life span. She & her husband (also ordained in the UCC, though a chaplain rather than pastor) lead the High School kids’ sunday school, and an annual mission trip. But she also oversees the whole of the Christian Education curriculum, and basically anything having to do with the women or children of the congregation.
Kids are told publicly at various times as they grow & progress through the church school how much the whole congregation values them and their faith. For example, in September, as they first start school,the kindergartners are blessed during the service, and are given Bibles(the Kids Message, this year); in 3rd grade, after completing a 6-week “race through the Bible,” they are given their own NIVs (in a cool, age-appropriate sparkly Kids’ Adventure Bible edition).
There’s kind of a pause, until ninth grade and confirmation. The confirmation process is awesome. Our minister, through prayer & her own gifts of intuition, matches each kid up with a mentor who is an a mature Christian with similar interests, talents, etc. The mentor & confirmand meet together once a week for about six months, studying the bible together along with other books (The Case for Faith, etc.) and usually eating some kind of junk food of the confirmand’s choosing. Thus they not only learn and are nourished by the scriptures, they form a relationship with a “real” adult who is not their parent. These intergenerational relationships endure & really help the youngster feel integrated into the fabric of the congregation. Then, on Confirmation Sunday, in the service, each & every teen is presented by his or her mentor to the congregation. The mentor says a little something about what they did together and usually talks a bit about the teen’s interests, strengths, etc. It is wonderful.
When the kids graduate from High School, there is also a special blessing for them. They are presented with a mug (for all-nighters) with the church’s logo, and a fleece blanket with the logo; the parents wrap the blanket around their teen as part of the blessing. There is not a dry eye in the meetinghouse.
Every spring, as soon as school is over, the “High School” kids go on a mission trip. I use quotations, because it has become such a popular & powerful experience that now we have as many parents as kids going. The kids are expected to raise much of the money for the trip, and this happens partly through group fundraising events, such as a gigantic yard sale, a lobster stew dinner, and the manufacture, packaging, and selling of thousands of chocolate Easter eggs. All these events involve parents working side by side with kids, encouraging mutual respect, friendship, camaraderie etc. During these mission weeks, we try to live as much in Christian unity as possible; sometimes this is easier when away from home!
One thing that is especially helpful in these mixed age groups is that parents never work directly with their kids. This is especially good if you are having a “bad mom/dad day.”
Thsi lady is not a young youth minister; she is in her 50′s, wears no makeup, and I have never seen her in a skirt outside of church. She does color her graying hair. She is incredibly energetic, no-nonsense, and has a love for God & kids. She is really fun to be around. About three years ago, my early-teen daughter said to me, “Mom, you are cool.” I was feeling pretty good, until she said, “But Mrs. G. is cooler.” I was delighted to be out-cooled by the minister!
Does it work? We moved away for a year, and my daughter cried every time we wnt to church because she missed our home church so much. Many of the kids who have gone off to college return every chance they get, and are welcomed warmly by teh congregation. Some clearly go on to live as Christians; not all, by any means.
I think, in my ramble, I have answered most of your questions.
God bless you!
Love and Peace
Sally K



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Kevin Ophoff

posted May 28, 2009 at 3:00 pm


After seeing appalling abuses of the term ?family based?
ministry I need to weigh in on the subject.
Some churches have actually scraped their youth ministry and Sunday Schools in preference of their misinterpretation of the concept of a ?family-based? ministry. In reality this is actually a reaction to the lack of committed volunteers and/ or their lack of commitment to fund a Youth Pastor staff position. These churches now feel justified in shirking their responsibility to train the youth in Christian principles arguing that these separate classes and groups take the youth out of the life of the church body.
In his book, ?Family-Based Youth Ministry?, Mark DeVries does make the assertion that the current youth group model we have been following, if that is all a church is doing for it?s youth, fails the youth by not connecting them with adults within the body of the church. I think these church leaders only read chapter three, found the rational to be lazy, then stopped reading. At the end of most chapters DeVries actually does suggest suspending the regular youth program but gives an alternative direction to pursue. By reading
only half the sentence and disregarding the new directive church leaders are causing a catastrophe to the Christian church of tomorrow by not seeing to the proper training of the youth today.
I do not think DeVries was intending to give lazy leaders an excuse to stop doing youth ministry. Before scraping your Sunday School class or mid-week youth group read the whole book. In the final chapter DeVries says to begin family-based youth ministry as an ?undercover or mustard-seed kind of ministry.? Begin to apply his principals slowly.
Many of the suggestions he gives are quite easy to implement. For instance, letting the kids be the greeters, hand out the bulletins, and participate in the praise band. The hardest thing about that is putting aside traditions your church may have developed like insisting that only the elders or deacons can be greeters. The music
director might have to be willing to settle for less then a perfect worship performance.
Some of the suggestions are harder, like teaching a parenting class or teaching parents to be the real spiritual mentors of their kids. This may mean that you will need to become an expert in parenting yourself. A commitment of this level may get in the way of other pet
projects. It may get in the way of the pastors quiet routine as he slides towards retirement. A real roadblock to this initiative is the deterioration of the nuclear family. As an alternative DeVries recommends several ways we can connect the kids to spiritually mature
adults with the greater Body of Christ. This too is conditional on having spiritually mature adults in your church family.
My admonition, in any case, is to suck it up and get off your lazy cabooses. Hired youth pastors and committed volunteers can be a major spiritual influence in the life of a teen. But this influence pales in comparison to the lasting influence parents have in the life of their kids. You must enlist the parents in the youth ministry
process. In some cases we must first see to the spiritual growth of the parents before we can expect them to properly mentor their kids. But we cannot let the size of the task stop us from beginning.
So I recommend that you read the book ?the whole book. Don?t scrap a great Sunday school program until you have a better alternative to replace it with.
Copyright 2008: Coconut Mountain Communications, All rights reserved



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Tamara Buchan

posted May 28, 2009 at 11:22 pm


Missio Lux is committed to helping families grow spiritually together; so we have missio communities where children and teens participate with their parents.
We share a time together and then a separate time, so both desires are accomplished. But, one of the most powerful experiences for whole families is doing missio (missional) projects together. Building those memories together builds faith and families at the same time.
The other benefit is the other adults who are befriending and influencing the teens. They are developing an important voice into the other teens in the missio community. We are finding that our structure is working really well and the whole family is growing spiritually as a result.



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