Leading change through student ministry

by Merrie Johnson, Youth Evangelism and Discipleship
Thursday, February 16, 2017 | 4 days old

Meet new youth minister, Ryan.

In his enthusiasm, Ryan begins his new position as youth minister of First Baptist Church.

Knowing he was called to this church because of his love for teenagers and his degree in youth ministry from one of the top seminaries, he is ready to go … from his point of view.

Changes needed to be made. Things needed to be changed, even thrown out.

Whatever the guy was like before him, he knew nothing about how to run a youth ministry program!

So Ryan set about to cut, cut, cut. Lots of the old programs and ways of doing things were gone within the first few weeks and months.

Then, Ryan meets the deacons.

Deacon Brown says, “Some of the youth group and their families are mad, angry, upset, hurt and confused. Who was this ‘new’ guy, and what did he think he was doing?

"Ryan, explain yourself!”

If only Ryan knew.

Ryan’s speedy changes sent youth group members scrambling for a reason as to why things had to change. Ryan did not understand that change that is introduced more gradually is more readily accepted. When change comes too quickly, it is more likely to be resisted.

The youth ministry’s inner work of change and transition has multiple steps. It begins with the recognition that something is wrong. Although the life of the youth ministry may be adequate, something is missing. Because the youth ministry is an outpost of the Christian church, it must be anchored to a biblical and historical understanding of the purpose of church.

Ryan needed to establish a vision that addressed the youth ministry’s direction and communicate that vision to others. God’s vision for the church includes evangelism, discipleship, worship, fellowship, ministry and missions.

What do Ryan and the church leaders want to see in those areas that will allow their students to grow in their relationship with Jesus?

Ryan needed to prepare the leaders to lead the youth ministry in a new direction. There had to be a formation of a compelling youth ministry vision to guide decision making and develop strategies that move the youth ministry toward the envisioned future.

Without clear goals, they end up going through programs that they think will work, rather than designing programs that will meet the real needs of students.

Editors note: Merrie Johnson serves as the senior consultant for youth evangelism and discipleship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. She will be leading a breakout session titledChange and Student Ministryat the Leading Change in the Church conference on Tuesday, March 7 at Calvary Baptist Churchs West Campus in Advance. To learn more or register, visit leadingchange.church.