Holy Conversation

November 1st, 2015


How is your church attracting youth, making disciples, and integrating the youth into the larger church? In what ways do we unintentionally set up obstacles for the youth we are trying to reach? 

"Our youth ministry is multidimensional, offering youth various ways to engage with the church. These include small groups, choirs and praise bands, mission experiences, Sunday morning classes, assisting in church school classes, retreats, leading VBS activities, traditional youth groups, scout activities, etc. We have learned that offering such diversity attracts more youth in areas they are interested in. We also seek to engage younger youth, beginning at 5th grade."
Frank Fowler
Senior Pastor of Trinity UMC in Hackettstown, NJ

"Being a church embedded in such a diverse community, it’s crucial to the life of our congregation and the surrounding community that young leaders emerge out of our youth ministry. We strive to provide moments where they can discover their gifts and passions that God has put in their hearts. I believe that our job as youth ministers is not to create leaders, but to awaken that sleeping giant in each of them: the shepherd, the healer, the teacher, the leader."
Amy Kelley
Director of Children and Youth Ministries at St. Luke’s UMC, Gethsemane Campus, in Houston, TX

"We try to have intergenerational activities whenever possible, and it makes sense to do so. We have middle school and high school students in our praise band along with adults. We have had a high school student as our accompanist, keyboarder, and organ player for the last two years. The middle and high school youth do the entire service several times per year. We’re meant to develop disciples of all ages and give them the opportunity to serve and find their gifts and talents. I also try to have a youth who has been confirmed serve on the Administrative Council and bring their perspective, voice, and vote. Additionally, we do have separate middle school and high school youth groups. They need a safe place to meet and talk without parents around so some of them can speak freely."
Eric Feuerstein
Pastor of First UMC in Canon City, CO

"Youth ministry is a necessary part of a vital congregation. However, the congregation has to come to the realization that youth ministry is always an investment in other congregations inside and outside of our denomination. Our culture and society is way too mobile to make the assumption that good youth ministry will ensure that the home church is building its own leadership. Youth ministry is the best form of cooperative community because we rely on other youth programs to train those who will subsequently move into our neighborhoods and provide fresh leadership in our churches. Full inclusion and support of youth ministry is doing our part for the church universal."
R. Kevin Seckel
Retired Clergy in Salem, OR

"At Lakeside Chautauqua there has been planned youth ministry over recent years but with dwindling attendance. This summer we hired a college student who had experience working with youth groups in the local church. We changed from set times for youth events to using social media for youth to come together. Youth today are more social and spontaneous. There were certain evenings set aside for teen youth ministry, but the invitations to events went via social media. Enormous planning is needed to make ministry appear spontaneous."
Norman E. “Ned” Dewire
Director of Religious Life at Lakeside Chautauqua in Lakeside, OH

"We organize a youth-led service once a month because we find power in multi­generational worship. Our students lead hesitantly due to fear of failure and lack of know-how. In order to help youth be a part of the church, we have to display acceptance of their youthfulness and offer guidance."
Kathy Jones
Director of Youth Ministries at Snellville UMC in Snellville, GA

"Here in our youth ministry at Hyde Park, we focus on partnering with parents during the week by encouraging them, giving them tools to use at home with their teens, and providing stable programming and volunteers here on Sundays for youth group. We encourage our families to worship together on Sunday mornings so they can talk about worship together as a family and grow in their discipleship together."
Emily Felgenhauer
Director of Youth Ministries at Hyde Park UMC in Tampa, FL

"The idea of relationship is at the center of our life together. While youth have their own “youth space,” they are also fully integrated into the life of the congregation. Youth help to lead in worship, they sing, they write newsletter articles, they serve on SPRC and the Administrative Council, they help with VBS, etc. We have a lot of church-wide events like retreats, receptions, and picnics. And whenever we gather, we laugh—a lot. Youth understand eating and laughing, and they can help teach us adults a thing or two about how to be in authentic relationship!"
Carol Cavin-Dillon
Lead Pastor of Christ UMC in Franklin, TN

"After over twenty years of consulting, I’ve observed two things that effective churches do with their students. One: they have their own separate worship concurrent with the adult worship. Two: the students meet during the week in small groups. Dying churches tend to insist that the students worship with them."
Bill Easum
Senior Consultant and Partner at The Effective Church Group

"The 'youth group' model of ministry flourished in the 1980s and 90s. Churches created full-time positions for youth pastors, dedicated space to youth rooms or buildings, and designed worship services specifically for teenagers. When kids who grew up in this segregated model graduated from high school, they lost their primary community of faith. They failed to be integrated into the rest of the congregation. Almost none of them returned. At our church, we realize there is no turning back, so we have a youth pastor, youth building, and youth worship. But we very carefully and intentionally build relational bridges across generations. We engage as many adults as possible as youth small group leaders. Every confirmand has an adult mentor. Youth participate as leaders in worship services and serve actively in missions and service projects, children’s ministries, etc. Relationship building between youth and adults is key."
Nathan Attwood
Pastor of First UMC in Millbrook, AL

"Too often we treat our young people as objects of mission, but these “youth” have names, hopes, dreams, and tastes all their own. As Howard Thurman would remind us, we can’t love in the abstract; we have to love in the particular."
Stephen Cady
Senior Minister, of Asbury First UMC in Rochester, NY

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