What Role Should the Church Council Play in Youth Ministry?

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What role does/should church council and/or elders play in youth ministry in your church?

Up until now, most of our kids have been elementary age and younger (we are a relatively newly formed congregation), so we have not had an established middle school / high school youth ministry. We are beginning to plan and develop what that looks like now, and I'm wondering what role we should have the elders and/or council play—both in the formation and in the on-going life of the ministry. 

What do you do that works well to provide both ownership and support of the youth ministry at your church?  What do you wish you would have done?

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Kelli Dunn,

This is a big question. I can speak from almost eight years of experience seeing what works and what doesn’t. I have served both in an RCA and a CRC church as a youth pastor. (One of those churches committed a substantial amount of its budget to the youth ministry. The other of those did not. I have seen more spiritual growth in the church that committed far LESS money than the one that committed more money. )

 

I have many thoughts on this and would love to talk over the phone or zoom or whatever. But this is where my mind went initially.

The church council should be involved in the measurement of outcomes of the youth ministry as well as implementation of the strategies that seek to meet the goals that are determined. I found that the greatest help that the church council provided for the youth group is to measure growth in a spiritually vibrant and healthy way. This measurement was not based on numbers of students coming to youth group nor was it based on conversions in the youth-aged culture of the church. Rather this metric measured the Spiritual encouragement, enrichment, and discipleship of the students. (From now on I will refer to this as the SEED score.) The SEED score seems like a very broad way to measure growth. You may ask, “How do I measure spiritual enrichment?” This brings us to Lead and Lag indicators.

Lead and Lag indicators have been crucial to the youth ministry of which I played a part. In short, a lead indicator or goal is a goal that you set in order to get a certain outcome. A lag indicator or goal is a metric that you take after an event to measure whether or not the event was a success. So for instance, a lead indicator for youth ministry would be that we are going to pray with at least one student one-to-one, leader-to-youth at each youth event. A lag indicator would be that we are going to count how many youth come to the youth group each night. I can control whether or not the youth sponsors pray with a student each time. I cannot control whether or not a youth attends youth group. As you probably know, youth group is one of many options for students these days.

We have seen tremendous growth in the youth since committing ourselves to our three lead indicators here at the church. I can communicate with you directly about what those lead indicators are (I did give one example above).

We then take those lead indicators and pray over them and then watch to see how we might measure any SEED score. I am quick to award a point toward the overall youth group event SEED score. So we might get a point if the student asks for prayer. We might measure a point toward the SEED score if the student articulates the gospel clearly. If a student offers to pray over the food, that might get a point. Talking with a parent and having them share their concern about the student’s spiritual life might get a point toward the SEED score. No, it is not as cut and dry as measuring attendance. But it is far more exciting and rewarding looking out for the way in which the Holy Spirit is moving.

Each year in January we sit down with the elders and communicate how these lead indicators are being met. Then we graph these against the SEED scores. The greatest gift the elders have given the youth ministry at God’s church here on the North East side of Grand Rapids, is that they genuinely celebrate these SEED scores.

 

I hope this helps. If you would like to communicate further or if I can be of any help. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me. 

Ben Gandy