Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Youth Ministry: If I Were to do it Again (Chris Folmsbee)

If I Were To Do It Again

I was a youth pastor for 13 years.  Today, I am active in youth
ministry as a volunteer at The Church of the Resurrection near my home
in Kansas City but most of my contribution to youth ministry these days
is through training, writing, speaking and consulting.
Recently, I was sharing some thoughts regarding the future of youth
ministry with a  group of local lead and executive pastors.  I was
asked, “If you were to go back and do youth ministry again, as you once
did, how would what you know now change how you would lead a youth
ministry?”  I had a few items off the top of my head (some are listed
below) but I pointed them all to this post for a more robust list of
things I might do differently.  So, if I were to go back and lead a
youth ministry again I would…


You fill in this sentence … and let’s see if we can help youth pastors… what have you learned?

?    Act theologically before methodologically
?    Be more of a spiritual director than a program director
?    Hire a parent to be a part of our youth staff
?    Spend more time investing in interns/co-pastors
?    Experiment with more learner-centered education models
?    Ask less of my volunteers and yet equip them more
?    Communicate change to the church leaders, staff and parents more
?    Create more opportunities for students to “learn up” instead of me “teaching down”
?    Celebrate the successes in the lives of students with greater regularity and intensity
?    Worry less about the retreat themes and spend more time with the students on the retreats.
?    Take students on way more spiritual retreats
?    Work hard to be more collaborative with the youth workers in my city
?    Take more time off to be with my wife and kids
?    Be more intentional with a confirmation process
?    Find time to laugh and play more
?    Be more grace-filled with students who were goofing off and causing trouble
?    Try to learn more from the staff instead of thinking I have all the answers
?    Take the criticism of others more seriously and less defensively
?    Meet with my spiritual director more often
?    Take personal retreats more often
?    Be way more missional and a lot less attractional in my approach or model
?    Try and get more pulpit time to advocate for the students in the church and community
?    Pray more and develop a team of people to pray with
?    Provide inspiring training for the parent of the students
?    Call the students to greater levels of holiness
?    Spend a lot more time creating opportunities for students to practice justice
?    Allow the more artistic students opportunities to express themselves and their love for God.
?    Teach much more conversationally
?    Try to enter into the joy, pain, loss, doubt, hurt, etc. of the students and their families

If I spend some more time thinking I am sure I could come up with a list of a whole lot more things I would do differently.  If you are a youth pastor/worker, what are some things you have learned to do differently from when you began until now?  If you are a former youth pastor/worker, what are some things that you would do differently?

Comments read comments(11)
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jeremy zach

posted May 29, 2009 at 12:58 pm

this is an amazing list. you are right the future of YM hangs on how youth pastors implement this list.
i am really fascinated with the idea of taking youth group outside of the church walls. i think we will see more and more youth ministries become smaller and detached from their youth group. Rather youth ministries will start to claim territories in their town/city as their sacred and communal space.
the goal will be to get more students to belong before they believe. i think youth pastors try really hard getting non-believers into their “church space”, which is not attractive to them at all. youth pastor assume their cool/hip youth room will be the place and space non-believers will instantly feel comfortable and at ease.

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Tommy O'Keefe

posted May 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Incredible list. Thanks so much for sharing…
Gives me a lot to think about/pray about…

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posted May 29, 2009 at 1:15 pm

“Provide inspiring training for the parent of the students”
Amen. Would like to hear some ideas on how best to accomplish that.

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posted May 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm

A year ago I would’ve looked over this list and thought (a bit sarcastically) , “Okay, I’ll do all these things AND take more time off for my wife, for personal retreats, etc…”
I’m learning that the key for me (and anyone else who tends to lean toward debilitation when they look at lists like this) is to take 1 or 2 things and just start doing them… to not over-analyze and/or drown in wishful thinking, but to just write an encouraging note to a kid, or call a (potential) mentor, or any of these other things on the list.
God bless you all.

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posted May 29, 2009 at 3:17 pm

If you do end up following up on this, I’d like to read a bit about the distinction between “theologically” and “methodologically” in your first bit. It sounds right, but when I thought about it for a moment, I realized I had no idea what you meant. :)

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posted May 29, 2009 at 4:09 pm

It is when you say things like these that I recall again the reasons why I so much enjoy ministering with you. Thanks. :-)

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posted May 30, 2009 at 9:28 am

One thing ,please forgive, Not one who just has to add.
1. I see cliques that are permitted from on gen-age to the other
focusing on that would be a priority.
2, Well another,,,,,,,,, Serving the needy, we send kids on mission
trips where there has to be a “reward system”ala Surfing in
CR… When… there are needy@ the door of the church. It should
not be Habitant for Humanity but service to the hood by the
local church, starting with the college group being in complete charge and passing this down to the teens,,,
thanks for a great stimulus( a real one) by Faith………

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Thomas McKenzie

posted May 30, 2009 at 5:42 pm

I was a youth minister for eight years, and have now been a priest for ten. I feel like I did a lot of things “right.” But here is what I would say:
You are a youth minister. You have a limited time with these kids. You will run afoul of some people, and eventually you will be fired or forced to quit, no matter what you do. Accept that. So be unafraid. Without fear or apology, know nothing but Christ and him crucified. Do not even attempt to entertain or compete with entertainment culture. Do not be an agent of parental morality or control. Instead, point these kids to Jesus and his Kingdom in everything you do.

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posted May 30, 2009 at 7:12 pm

What iHaj (8) said is exactly true.
If I were to go back into youth ministry I would make teaching and seeking to live the Jesus Creed the central and organizing principle of the ministry

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posted June 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm

@Nate #5, a good discussion of theological youth ministry is found in the book “Starting Right” (published by zondervan, edited by Dean, Clark, and Rahn), which is a collection of essays on youth ministry, and a book I highly recommend.

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