Book Reflection: “Youth Ministry in Small Churches”

youth-min-small-churchesToday I read “Youth Ministry in Small Churches” by Rick Chromey (1990, Zondervan) and took away a lot of valuable, foundational information.  Below are the points that I took away and have adapted for my own understanding.  Hopefully if you are involved in youth ministry this can be of some value to you.

Small Churches vs. Larger Churches Characteristics

Small churches generally make it easier to make close relationships.  I would advocate to utilize this as a strength and don’t let it become a weakness.  Small churches are intergenerational, whereas larger churches have specified demographics (ex/ all church picnic vs. young adult picnic).  Small churches follow a different calendar.  To plan for 100 kids to go on a canoe trip, you need much more time planning out food, lodging, and other details, whereas a youth group of 10 kids can plan that same trip in a couple of days.

Helping Teenagers Become Leaders

The fifth chapter of the book explores many ways of helping to create leaders not only for the youth group, but for the entire church.  There are a list of excuses that youth leaders say as to why this cannot happen, such as, “We just don’t have any kids who can lead worship or teach Sunday school.”  Chromey argues that this is a limited view of leadership and to do the hard work in finding out the real gifts and interests of the students.  Three other excuses include: “But if we let the kids do it, they’ll mess up. Older church members won’t accept the kids’ leadership. Our kids aren’t spiritually mature.”  To this, Chromey responds that there will be mistakes from the students, but if the kids are trying to serve in a variety of capacities, this can also help bring the older saints to being more open to kids helping.  Personally, I think this type of resistance is only seen in unhealthy situations, but I have seen it frequently from older church members.  If the youth are not spiritually mature, part of the problem could be that they have not been thrown into leadership!  A kid cannot learn to swim unless you throw him in the pool.

Chromey goes on by looking at Jesus’ leadership model (which is fairly overused, but was helpful for me in this case).  He advocates that Jesus developed leadership by using everyone, not just a few.  He also realized that there were all different types of people and met them where they were at.  Jesus made leadership fun (fed the 5,000 people) and encouraged his disciples when they did it right.  Finally, Chromey says that Jesus allowed his leaders to fail (ex/ Peter gets out and tries to walk on water).  This is a huge concept, as it can be so frustrating when you put the ball in someone else’s hands and they drop it.  I think this is a balance, as you do not want to continue to give opportunities to an unreliable person, but second chances are important.

Six step process for giving youth responsibility in the church:

1. Identify Needed Gifts. Sometimes it can be tempting to give away the jobs that simply need done.  Make sure that the person fits the job, or the results will be discouraging for everyone.

2. Recruit Young People.

– Can this young person do the job effectively?

– Is the young person reliable enough for the job?

– Is this responsibility the best way to use the young person’s gifts?

– What factors might make it unwise to give this responsibility to this young person?

Rick Chromey goes on to give creative examples of service outside of the typical “usher” or “tear down” (not to minimize those roles) to suggesting that if someone is interested in agriculture, let them get involved with mowing the grass and doing the landscaping.  If they like cars, have them change oil for needy church attenders.  If they are artistic, have them draw some designs for a sermon series.  Putting people in the right place is crucial to the success for everyone. (Again, these are Rick’s thoughts adapted by me).

3. Plan Together. I have noticed personally that whenever I am involved in the planning stages, I feel much more involved and therefore want to make sure I do this in my ministry.  The more people feel they are involved, the more they will invest.

4. Train the Young Person.

5. Support and Consult.

6. Evaluate.

Recruiting Volunteers

Something I found to be a very important thought was to remember to allow other leaders to take leadership, as opposed to just doing it myself.  I could definitely see this becoming a weakness, but I want to create a culture where leaders are trusted, developed, and given the opportunity to step up and…lead!

As far as the actual recruitment process, Chromey identifies how much work it is to try and get people to give their time and talents.  Sometimes they just need to be asked, but other times you really have to hound them.  However, it can not be that annoying hounding, but consistency with getting people excited about the mission is crucial.

There were a bunch of ideas as to actually recruiting the volunteers, but the one that I liked was the “come and try it out” method.  “Just come and join us this week for the youth group meeting.  If you don’t feel comfortable after watching a meeting, I’ll leave you alone.  But I think you’d be great for the group.”

Budgeting for Your Youth Ministry

Finally, the best chapter of the book was on budgeting including how to prepare one, the benefits of doing it, and budget savers.  I won’t get too detailed into this chapter, as I feel it is better just for reference, but page 106 includes some great “Tips for Successful Fund Raisers”.  He advocates that car washes are just overdone, but gift wrapping at the mall during the Christmas season could be much more profitable.  He also says that the fundraisers should be service-oriented.  Donations for baby sitting is a much better idea than a bake sale where the parents end up doing all the cooking.  He also suggested doing a “Trash-a-thon” where church members make pledges for every bag of trash that is picked up (plus, it helps clean up the area and help the environment!).  The final thought that was good to remember was to choose the fundraisers carefully and sparingly.

Final Thoughts

So, overall the book was a really quick read with a solid bunch of nuggets for youth ministries.  The back of the book also has 18 game ideas, which can also be a helpful reference.  If you are a part-time youth leader or new to the ministry, the foundations and reference from “Youth Ministry in Small Churches” is a worthwhile use of a Saturday while watching college football. 🙂

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