12 THE SOWER
Building a Youth Ministry (Or is that a Mystery?) (http://www.calgary.anglican.ca/Sower/SowerSept06.pdf p.12)
This article responds to questions about how St. George’s built a youth outreach community.
by Ty Ragan
For nine years, I have been serving the Lord in children and youth ministry, in the church and on the streets of Canada.
It has been a roller coaster ride ever since.
What youth ministry is not. It is not a ministry that is games driven – although they are a piece of the puzzle. It is not just amazing worship – although it can be a wonderful part. It is not food although with teens that is necessary. It is not building converts. Christ is in all our hearts, and it is he who converts the open heart. It is not pushing through when problems hit although these are amazing times for reconciliation and healing of a community. It is not a huge list of Sin Donʼts and Saints do. It is as simple as building self-respect, community respect and showing them the safety and care for them in the Heart of God. It is not bringing hundreds together although if you have good adult volunteers with the spark, this is possible. But we need to ensure the roots of faith go deep.
You are not a super Christian. You are a human being, and it is okay to show that to your youth- scars, tats, piercings and all. You are not a youthʼs best friend. We are mentors along the path helping to guide a youth to make positive choices. You are not the youthʼs parent. They have parents regardless if they are good or bad at parenting. You are not their social worker but we can help direct them to resources. Nor are you their long term counselor. You may be called upon for short term or brief counselling, but we are to equip our youth with resources and tools for their healing.
So what is youth ministry? It is disciple making. It is exploring the faith both corporately and individually through images, music, prayer, Bible, stories, projects, actions and yes games. Anyone who wants to see youth develop games based on faith, contact me.
It is guiding youth on a journey, accepting that all who come have Christ in their hearts. And if you are living an authentic Christian life, foibles and all- something will be seen and wanted.
In a simple statement, youth ministry is spiritual formation to equip the youth for life in a world that is not always fair.
What is a youth pastor-leader-director? That is simple: you are a human being who needs help. A person who equips and ministers not only to the youth, but also to volunteers so no youth is left behind.
You are a person who needs to be honest, in the celebrations of the joys of life, and the despairs, and showing the God is steadfast and there for them. There is humbleness, when you screw up, admit it and apologize.
Your life will say more about being a Christian, and impact the youth far more than any number of youth talks. You are their mentor. As a youth pastor-leader-type person, you are your youthʼs spiritual director helping them wrestle through their world and faith and experience the Glory of God.
This is a unique system, and I welcome anyone wanting to talk about it further. All I know is that when I was called to the parish, I looked up to God and said, “This is not my comfort zone, why am I here?” God answered. God challenged me, as the community came to Soul Revolution, and while never talking of evangelism, my youth experienced God in our times of quiet, in our times of action, in our times of fun and laughter, in our times of tears. They met God and they bring their friends to meet God.
That is the true heart of a youth ministry- a place where Youth can experience God.
Youth at St. George’s, Calgary spent time during a 30 Hour Famine doing a sidewalk chalk mural outside the church.