I hope you have been getting as much out of these committee questions as I have. Reading these posts so far have me feeling excited and energetic about my next youth committee meeting and the opportunities we have to shape our youth ministry as a group. Today we dive deeper with…..
“How do you utilize the committee?”
Josh Beeler is the Associate Pastor for Youth and College at Central Baptist Church of Fountain City in Knoxville, TN. He is a graduate of Old Dominion University and of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. Josh is married to his wonderful wife, Sherry, who he enjoys sharing conversation, adventures, and life with. He is ridiculously playful and works daily to maintain his mischievousness. Josh enjoys playing, singing, reading, questioning and laughing with friends.
What does a youth committee look like? In our church, it is a collection of people who are key in each of the different elements of our youth ministry. We have Sunday school teachers, Wednesday night leaders, college volunteers, activity chaperones, parents, and students represented on the team. Ours is a group of 15 people that cover these different aspects of ministry to students and meets a few times a year on a regular schedule, and of course occasionally when needed. All in all, I’d say we meet 3-5 times a year in person. Doesn’t seem like a lot, right? I suppose that says something about how I utilize this wonderful group of people.
The youth committee serves as my idea box—for review and dreams.
Twice a year, we meet to plan and look back. In the late winter or early spring, we meet and review what has happened in the first half of the school year and talk about how it might change in the next year. This team has their eyes and hands in the middle of all that happens and hears feedback from our students, so their ideas and suggestions are vital for the value of our youth ministry and programming going forward. We talk about what has happened and what we might change or try differently in the next year to really make our time with our students meaningful. Typically, I will come in with a pretty good outline of when events might fall, but nothing is ever set in stone. If something went terribly and there are suggestions for other activities we might try, we will scrap things and start fresh. If I thought something went well but hear differently from the team, we will work in a different direction. I think that one of the most important things to offer a youth committee is the idea that you have thoughtfully considered the ministry ahead of your meeting with them and have plans for how to move forward, but that their voices are important and their ideas can genuinely be considered and transplant whatever you may have thought up for our co-ministry to students.
I find it absolutely vital to have strong student leaders as a part of the youth committee. This allows you an opportunity to work closely with them and disciple them individually, but it also gives you the opportunity to hear directly from students about how a particular event or ministry went. They will hear different feedback from friends than adults will ever get. They will have perspective that you left behind twenty years ago. So I utilize the committee as another environment to disciple teens, but also to give them safe space to voice opinions and ideas.
I try to choose members for our youth committee that are completely committed to the ministry of our students, and who are always seeking to try new things and learn more on how they can minister to teens. When this is the case, it allows me to offer training to leaders on how to minister to our students more effectively. Now as I mentioned before, we only meet 3-5 times a year—I think it is important to not punish volunteer leaders with “death-by-meeting”. But during those breaks of time, I try to send out emails regularly with training videos or interesting articles that will give them perspective on ministry to teens, teen development, parenting research, etc. that helps them care for our students better. This team serves as a core group that I get to pour into and offer as many resources as possible to make sure that we have a strong core of leaders ready to train our youth.
Carol Harston has served as Minister to Youth at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, since 2007. Born and raised at Highland, Carol has found the joy of caring for youth in the same community that shaped her as a young person. Outside of youth ministry, Carol has her hands full as a mom to James (4 years old) and Collier (21 months old) and wife to Drew (orthopedic surgery resident and faithful youth volunteer).
When Bill Wilson from the Center for Healthy Churches visited with our ministry staff over the summer, he reminded us the important perspective – we are coaches of the team. The youth ministry I am tasked to carry is not mine, it is the church’s. The church is the one that saw youth ministry as something they value. They put their financial resources towards hiring a minister to help them create a youth community in communion with God.
I am a coach who is equipping and empowering the team to go out and play the game they are called to play. Our “Youth Ministry Group” is the group that shows up every month to learn their positions, practice their teamwork, and prep for the game. Our group is made up of youth leaders, youth parents, and youth representatives. We meet once a month for an hour and a half.
As Highland’s youth minister, I am called to be a good steward of these volunteers. As I prepare for our meetings, I keep in mind that the best way to honor the gift of their time, energy, and love is to utilize them in the best way possible. Sometimes this means having a power-house meeting with a lot of information to tackle. Sometimes this means having a reflective and contemplative time to explore the theological depths of our ministry.
The actual task of determining the best way to use our time together is a challenge each month. There is a balance that I must keep before me. Even after working in the same congregation for eight years, I struggle with the wisdom of which tasks I complete and which tasks I share. The fact is that there is no clear answer that applies every time. There are some members who want to be invited into the initial stages of wondering, exploring, and deciding what is best. There are some members who want to be told which tasks need to be done and delegate amongst ourselves.
I spend the days leading up to our meeting determining the tasks big and small that would be best shared with the group. I begin by looking at what we know (the calendar, what we’ve done in the past, the number of youth estimated to attend, pastoral care concerns, larger church issues). Then I begin to wonder what we still need to know as we move forward (our goals in the event, the options before us, the amount of energy we feel towards accomplishing something).
I create an agenda that reflects all the realities in play in order to give space for the questions with which we will need to wrestle.
Regardless of the tasks or logistics, I find that the most important task we can accomplish together is to understand why we do what we do. We begin each meeting with a devotion, led by myself or another group member. Sometimes it is simple… with an excerpt from a book or prayer concerns from our community. Sometimes it is more complex…drawing out what we see, observe, and worry about with the teenagers in our life. I scribble the answers on a dry-erase board and then we step back to wonder together. Where is God amidst this? What is our call as the Body of Christ that is our youth ministry community? How does that shape the tasks and logistics we will cover in our meeting.
With our minds and hearts joined together in purpose, we then begin the worship that is our work together. Regardless of the “productivity” of our time together, I remember that it is God who is doing the most powerful work through hearts gathered together out of love for our teenage neighbor.