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The best part is when you see the Holy Spirit take over and they get it! Or when they get it and ask more. Then I can show them another verse for reference that agrees with the first one. This usually leads to the question of "How do you know all this?" So I tell them I only know from what God has told me in his word. This is why i take a daily time out of my busy life and read scripture.
That in turn gives you leverage when you can now get them to see the importance of reading God's Word on their own. This is how we run our Bible Studies on Tuesday nights. Teens come with verses they have read and have questions about, then all of us dig in together to find out what it means, or what other verses can help us understand it. The teens love it when I say "I don't know, lets see what God says". You can see the sparkle in their eye like as if they stumped me and it feels good. Then they learn the importance of reading God's word on their own, not because I already have the answers.
My wife is a PK and we sometimes clash on what I should be doing as the father to our children. She works hard to safeguard our children from being "preached to" all the time. This was unfortunately her experience as a PK. From the way she tells the story, it was always "on" for her no matter at home or church to be the good PK she was supposed to be. For that reason the pendulum gets swung way to the other side sometimes on how things are handled at home with our kids.
I am very fortunate to be under a Sr. Pastor who models a family first approach to the entire ministry. There are 4 of us on staff and 2 of them are married. All of us have children and we do our best to make sure they know that they are loved and cared for above the ministries we lead. We tell the kids all the time that no matter which family they are with, we are all one big family that cares for each other. It shows up in the relationships the kids have with each other too.
That being said, we still make mistakes and are prone to let the ministry get before the family. So I am looking forward to another voice of experience to help when the questions or anxieties of when leading ministry and leading a family clash.
Thanks again for all you are doing.
We took on the concept from Northpoint's Student Ministries called: Student Impact. This is where teens are encouraged and given the opportunity to serve in virtually every ministry available. We always choose one teaching series a year to emphasize the fact that they are part of the church now, not tomorrow. Throughout the series we have open opportunities within the church for them to get involved. This has helped tremendously with getting them engaged, and to show them that when they do move away, they can serve in the church they eventually decide to attend.
I have ran into this problem in the past and did not handle it well the first time. After that I set a policy that you must be out of Youth ministry for at least one year before serving in it. It is healthy for the person desiring to serve and for the ministry.
Usually the reason they want to stay is because of a fear of moving on. We now have a terrific college aged group and we also push the newly graduated teen to serve in some of the other ministries so they can see where else they fit into the church.
Keeping Devon around is not only possibly harmful to the ministry, but also to himself. Help him see the bigger picture of what it means to serve in the church. Let him work with the older kids in the children's ministry for a year and see how he does. That could set him up for success for a long time.
It actually works really well if it is coordinated well and your adult leaders are prepared for what to do when. This also is my best night to get fringe volunteers involved. The ones that do not want to be a regular leader, but help out at just the events. They are not afraid of a big task to help out with if it is only 3 or 4 times a year.
The one I like best and has worked best is 6th grade only for Sunday mornings, 7th-12th for large group hangout Sunday nights then break into 7th-8th and 9th-12th games for teaching. Then 7th-8th grade groups that are gender specific and grade specific. And for 9th-12th it is 9th and 10th grades gender specific groups and 11th-12th grades gender specific groups.
I like Chris's idea of a 4th 5th and 6th grade group, but I think for us it would be better for just 5th and 6th, no 4th. This 5th and 6th grade would meet on Sunday mornings, but not come to our large group on Sunday nights until 7th. Right now we have our 6th grades coming Sunday mornings and also Sunday nights. It gives them the ability to know that if they do not want to come Sunday nights, there is still a place specific for them until they feel ok being with the older crowd, which usually happens by 7th grade. But we are now also seeing a disconnect in maturity from 7th to 8th grades.
I am thinking the "Drivers vs. non-drivers" way to go is also a good one.
We currently have enough leaders to separate the groups effectively, and I also think we have the ability to teach to the ages effectively. I think the large group hang out time is ok to have all of the ages since it adds for size, (We average 55 teens on Sunday nights)and also lets the younger teens see the older teens in action while not forcing them to hang out with them. I have a few older teens that i constantly remind to "minister" to the younger ones by at least saying hi to them and help them feel comfortable so they see the coolness of growing up in youth group.
So I feel it is a good thing to separate for talks and group times. This way you can be specific in any teaching to the age you are speaking to. But I still feel there needs to be instances where the younger group sees what it is like to be older, even if the older teens can be immature at times.
Jesus showed us this time and time again. He did not walk into a town with the banner held high for everyone's respect since He was the Son of God. Instead he met people where they were and started a relationship with them. Once the relationship was established, He could speak into their lives with the truth and the people would respond.
If you got into youth ministry because you need to be "respected" than you might want to move on. Actually, you might want to check out the infant room for a while. Try to explain to a crying baby what it says in Eph. 6, and that they should stop crying. When that does not work, pick them up, change their diaper, feed them a bottle, hold them and rock them until they feel safe with you. Once they know you are a safe person, they will respond to you. This only comes with patience and time, and a lot of commitment to the relationship before the rules.
Jesus did it for you: Romans 5:8.