“The task of nurturing faith belongs to the family, not the youth group, and the sooner the church becomes an ‘extended’ family for young people, the better chance youth have of becoming mature Christian adults.”
-Kenda Creasy Dean
After spending a few days in October at a conference in Plano, TX and a week at Perkins School of Youth Ministry at SMU I came home thinking and imagining about one idea in particular, a family based youth ministry. While I still have a lot to learn about what this ministry model looks like and what it could look like at Deer Park UMC, I can’t help but get excited about the possibilities.
So what does, as Mark DeVries has coined it, Family-Based Youth Ministry look like? First and foremost it breaks down the two major walls in all churches. These are the walls that separate children from youth and youth from adults. It is easy to get stuck in this form of “Children are here until this point” and “Youth stay here until they are this age.” After that we hope we have prepared them enough to go off to college and come home and jump back into the life of a church where the cycle starts over when they have kids. While this model has served many churches very well over the last few decades it has become increasingly ineffective especially when it comes to our youth becoming adults and plugging them into the life of the church. Church as a part of our culture is on the decline. As church becomes less important, other things take its place. When our students leave for college our culture is no longer telling them to go to church its telling them to choose other things. Dr. Ken Wilgus, psychologist and author of “Feeding the Mouth that Bites you” , spoke at the ministry innovators conference that I attended in October. He summed up this problem pretty well when he said “Why do we wait until our youth have left for college to start treating them as adults?” It is a great question. Why? Why do we expect our youth to go off to college and come home to our church or any church for that matter and feel prepared to be an adult in the church? Our students hear the things we want and expect from them in adulthood but do they really understand what it is like to tithe, participate in committees, volunteer to do one of the many jobs that are done by our volunteers or even wake up and drive themselves to service on Sunday? The solution is to break down that wall, and start to integrate our youth into the life of the church before they graduate. The solution is that we start looking at “Ministry” as an umbrella that covers all of us and not as 3 separate silos on one farm. If we begin to start looking at ministry in a way that develops young adults before they graduate high school the fact that the popular culture says church is not a priority becomes irrelevant as they leave for college or whatever path they choose to take. If we start changing the way we look at ministry we start to better understand what it means to live into our mission of “Forming fully devoted followers of Jesus”
I have come home with a ton of books, notes, questions and ideas and I am excited to begin exploring them all. I am also excited to begin looking at this model of ministry and find ways to begin to integrate it here at DPUMC. I ask that you keep this youth ministry and the church as a whole in your prayers. Greater things are yet to come and greater things are still to be done here and I am excited to be a part of it all.
Director of Student Ministries
Deer Park United Methodist Church