We sometimes assume the whole church is aware of what is happening in the youth ministry. Often that is not the case though. Making sure to bring awareness to the events, studies, and celebrations, is a part of our job. So today we tackle…..
“What are effective ways you use to communicate with the whole church?”
Rev. Alice Cates serves as the Minister to Youth at Chester Baptist Church in Chester, VA (just south of Richmond). She earned her Master of Divinity degree from the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, her Master’s in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University, her undergraduate degree in Theatre Arts from Campbell University, and was ordained to Christian Ministry at Biltmore Baptist Church in Glen Allen, VA. Alice greatly enjoys laughing out loud, preaching, Howie (the greatest nephew in the world), sunny days in the park, wrangling her bloodthirsty housecat Henrietta, and Netflixing. Always Netflixing.
Sometimes it can feel as though youth ministry programs are operating within their own bubble. We have our own meal times, our own Bible Study times, our own materials, our own retreats, our own adult helpers, our own t-shirts… the list goes on and on. To some extent we set ourselves up for this level of isolation. The youth don’t always “get” the older folks and the older folks often don’t “get” the youth. So why not just keep it that way?
Because that’s not good for the church. And it isn’t good for the students. We are all a part of one body and that body must work as a unit.
So, how do we get the word out about what we’re doing, and (more importantly), how do we engage the church enough to care about what we’re doing?
- The usual: Newsletters, emails, bulletin activity notes
An oldie but a goodie. At many churches the newsletter is eagerly awaited each month, either in print or via email. People of all ages peruse the pages and I like to imagine them all sitting down with their calendars to carefully mark down upcoming events and birthdays. Maybe that’s what happens, maybe it isn’t… either way, people read these things! And if we get the word out enough (repetition is okay!!) people will remember.
- In group settings such as corporate worship, business meetings, etc.
Just because you are the minister to youth doesn’t mean that you are the minister to youth only! You are a minister! You are gifted with leadership and with training which can be expressed and shared in a variety of contexts. Get involved with corporate worship leadership if you aren’t already. (Get your youth involved too for that matter!) Make it a point to attend business meetings, council meetings and deacons meetings. Give updates on the ins and outs of youth ministry programs. Your presence, your opinion, and your leadership at these meetings will go a long way to remind folks that the youth ministry programs are engaging people (sometimes lots of people!) in missions and spiritual development. As congregants hear and see you and your youth sharing and engaging in church-wide activities, they will begin to think of young people less as a nuisance and more as important members of the body of Christ.
- Face to face involvement through inter-generational missions and ministries.
We are one body, one church family, so let’s all work together! Newsletter articles, and email chains are great and helpful, but they ultimately do not necessarily lead to caring involvement. Being intentional about planning regular activities and mission experiences in which a variety of church leaders (beyond just the “usual” youth workers) engage with and work alongside the youth develops relationships; caring relationships. As other members of the congregation really get to know the youth and see them in action, they will be more inclined to invest in them both financially and relationally. Consider doing monthly or quarterly mission projects in your local community; enlist the deacons to help be your eyes and ears among their “deacon families,” seeking out potential places where a team of youth and adults might be able to help. Does an elderly couple need help with some yard work? Could a family with a new baby use some ready to cook meals in their freezer? Put together teams of adults and youth to cook, clean, rake, pull weeds, visit… the list is endless! Inter-generational missions is a great way for the entire church to come together learning about each other, and growing in love and service.
Andrew Noe is the Student Minister at Rosemont Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, and the moderator of this blog. He enjoys superheroes, and trying to be funny. He is married to the wonderful and amazing Hannah Noe, and they are excited for their first child to arrive mid-July. They also have a super intelligent dog named Daphne, and a water-obsessed cat named Ellie.
As a youth minister the majority of my communication is aimed at teenagers and their guardians. They love texting….but the majority of my church does not. If I want to communicate with them, and help them see the beauty and chaos of ministering to youth I have to explore other options.
There are a few reasons I try and include the whole congregation on what is happening with the youth.
- I am excited. I actually love my job a lot and want to share what is happening with others. The connections the youth make with the scriptures, or the moments of sacred beauty that sometimes happen with the youth, are things that help grow my faith. Why wouldn’t I want to share those with the congregation?
- By inviting the larger church in to what is happening, I am giving them permission (which they don’t really need from me) to take part. To ask the youth questions to share their stories, and to invest in the youth.
- Job security. It’s not the most glamourous of answers but it is part of it. By communicating with the church what is happening, giving them pictures from the events, having moments that highlight the ministry in worship, posting on the church’s facebook wall, these all combine to help paint picture of what I am doing.
Ways I communicate with the church:
- I use our church wide facebook page. I post something youth related to that page once a week. It can be a picture from the past week’s Bible study, it could be a photo album for our recent retreat, or maybe an article or link to our weekly online youth newsletter.
- I use a bulletin board right outside the church office space near the sanctuary. I update this board 3-4 times a year. It contains calendars for the next 3-6 months for parents to take with them, it has pictures from recent events, and it often highlights what we are studying on Wednesday and Sunday. Currently it has a top 5 list of my favorite moments of my first year at the church.
- I encourage the youth to be seen. My worship minister is great and makes sure to include a youth in the worship either to say a prayer or read scripture at least once a month. Making sure this space exists for the youth to use, is the best form of communication for the church to see the youth practicing their faith. A youth living out their calling speaks volumes.
- I have just recently started giving our deacons “student info cards” once every 3 months. These cards include birthdates, school info, mailing address, and a prayer request for each student (soon they will have pictures). Each deacon gets 3-4 students and prayers for them, and hopefully sends them a note. This practice will hopefully grow into a buddy system and allow relationships to form between the youth and deacons. Those relationships will be a huge source of communication for stories to flow from the youth to the larger congregation of what is happening in their faith.
I hope these reasons and ideas help you in your ministry. I would love to hear other ideas so please take time to comment on this blog for myself and for others reading. Thanks!