Survey on Program Model

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There seems to be 3-models of doing youth ministry today:

1. Event focused
2. Relationally-based
3. Small Group

All three have value, each one is unique in its own right and each one has its pro’s and con’s. If you have a few moments, I would love to hear back from you sharing what type of ministry model you use in your church and why you chose it. It will be interesting to see the trends in the Christian Reformed Church and what model of youth ministry is mostly used.

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Our most consistent mode is the small group model, though it is hard to peg our ministry strictly as one of these models - we're mostly moving between event focused and small group, but it always seems that both of these are done with the hope that they'd build a more relationally-based ministry ;P

Since I'm new to my current church, we are undergoing a period of change.
We are in the process of developing a youth ministry that incorporates all three models in some respect.
1) Event focused - montly events that range from intergenerational gatherings within our church, community service projects, and community building events (i.e. the "fun nights")
2) Relationally based - at some point during their high school career, the goal is to have each student in our youth ministry connected with an adult member of our church in a one-on-one mentoring relationship, whether through doing Profession of Faith, student leadership training, prayer or prayer partners
3) Small groups - we don't have small groups in the formal sense with an assigned leader; we have a more fluid approach where the groups and leaders change depending on who is in attendance at our discussion evenings. This approach fosters great relationships between the students and the leaders because there is always a bit of change from week to week. Our group is relatively small (just under 20 students), so this works well.

Like others, I don't use just one of the models, but use a mix of them. In my mind, if you run a program solely under one of these models, 'success' just might not be found. Different kids come out for different reasons. I know if I was to never have a 'just-for-fun' event, some of my kids would end up elsewhere, whereas if I never had small groups, I would loose everyone of my leaders. Here's a bit of a break-down of what goes on over here ...
1. Event focused
- Around once a month, or once every other month, we'll do something extra, be it a random game night, service projects, or worship night with other local youth groups.
2. Relationally-based
- I try to meet up with most of my youth for coffee or a coke. I encourage my leaders to also do the same, so that we can build relationships through the goodness of starbucks or tim hortons!
3. Small Group
- for the most part, this is our focus, we use small group ministry to teach the kids here. I would say it happens 80% of the youth nights. When there isn't a scheduled SG night, lower numbers show up. The hard part is of course finding curriculum suited to all ages.

I’m not sure our model fits any or all of the 3 you mentioned. We have a weekly afterschool program that is similar to a drop-in community center model. It runs from 3:30 pm till 7:00 pm and includes dinner (free). It is immediately followed by a worship service which kids can choose to attend (or not).

We’ve done this for over 5 years. This year has seen about 100 kids attend at some point. Each week about 30 – 40 kids show up for various periods of time, 15 – 20 stay for worship. The majority of our students are from unchurched homes.

The atmosphere allows for the development of relational-based ministry and allows for the development of small, informal groups.

WOW! Sounds like a great ministry you have with your after school program. Can you lay out for us how the 3 1/2 hours look from week-to-week? Do the youth run around and play? Is there some structure to it other than a meal and worship time? Has the ministry grown in the past 5-years? How many volunteers do you have to run the ministry?

It sounds like you have something good going here and perhaps this is an idea that other Youth Workers across North America might be interested in promoting in their respective churches.

Thanks 'Skuipers'

I guess I would call it structured chaos :-) The entire church building is available for us to use; no other groups are allowed to schedule meetings there during this time (which really cuts down on the complaints about noise and rowdy teenagers!)

When the kids arrive they enter through the social hall where we have a variety of table games: pool, foosball, air hockey, ping pong, etc. As kids enter the facility they sign in and have immediate access to snacks. Usually the first thing they say as they enter the door is “Hi! What’s for dinner?” Often, they gather around the kitchen to share news and talk about what’s going on at home and school, then wander off to join their friends.

We have one classroom set up with electronic games such as Playstation and X-Box 360. In addition there are a couple of laptop computers available. Another classroom is deemed the “homework” room. Here kids can work individually or in groups on that day’s homework or group projects. If they need help or tutoring they can get if from their peers, one of the older kids or an adults.

Down the hall, there is the more typical “youth” room with the standard couches, bean bags and stereo system for hanging out. The worship center is available for kids to use for music practice or jam sessions. (One of my favorite memories is the sight of a couple of guys arriving by skateboard with their guitars in one hand and amps in another!) The adjacent church parking lot serves as a freestyle skateboarding area.

Though it may at times appear unorganized, there is a lot of intentionality built into this set up. The kids have a safe place for much needed “down time” to visit with their friends. Because there is no expectation that they all participate in orchestrated group activities they tend to form into natural affinity groups. I have the freedom to move from group to group thereby interacting with small groups and individuals in a more natural and open environment.

At 5:30 we gather everyone together in the social hall for announcements, prayer and a family style dinner. Each week we have kids take turns setting up tables and chairs and I usually ask for a volunteer to offer prayer for the meal. For many of our kids this is one of their first attempts at prayer. (One of my favorite prayers was when a young man said “Yo, God. Uh, thanks for the food, thanks for S… and S… making dinner. Help us to behave and do good tricks on our skateboards. Amen” – classic!)

After dinner, kids are free to resume their chosen activities until 7pm. At that time they can either leave for the evening or join us for an hour of worship called “Vintage Youth”. Here we use experiential worship practices – silence, candles, prayer stations, responsive readings, teaching and discussions, prayer, blessing, etc. No bands, no praise team, but plenty of Spirit!

As far as volunteers, this year has been an incredible blessing. Up until now it had been only myself and one volunteer – really tough! This year we have been blessed with having 3 additional individuals offer to help. One helps in leading worship, one helps in the kitchen, freeing up my long standing volunteer for more relational interaction, and one comes during our worship time to assist in cleaning up.

A couple of additional notes:
1. This program has continued to evolve over the years. We have learned that half the battle is getting out of God’s way and letting Him work. When we started, we had about 10-15 kids, mostly from church families. They started bringing their friends, who then brought their friends and so on. Some kids come every week; some come a couple times a month, some drop in from time to time. Our average weekly attendance is around 40; if they all showed up at once there would be over 100. The majority of our participants come from unchurched homes.

2. We’ve learned that conventional wisdom often isn’t. We don’t have “Jr. High, High School, College divisions. We just have youth ministry. This means that it is not unusual for kids to bring younger siblings because they are left in charge of them. A number of kids continue to come even though they are past high school and now in their late teens and early twenties. On any given day we might have kids as young as 6 and as old as 21 gathered together. Some might argue that this is too inclusive. We find it leads to a stronger sense of family, something greatly missing in many of our kid’s lives.

3. This ministry is a testimony to this particular church’s desire to reach out to the youth and families of its community. This is a church of roughly 200 members – not large by any means, yet they continue to support us through the budget and additional offerings. (Trust me, feeding 40 kids every week isn’t cheap!)

4. We work in an urban context. Gangs, drugs, violence, dysfunctional family lives, homelessness and neglect are an everyday part of our kid’s lives. This type of ministry is not without its pressures and hardships. This is a place kids come to be safe and be loved, and it is where the Gospel is spoken through words, hugs, confrontations, prayers, tears and a lot of laughter.

My typical “youth day” begins at 9 am when I do the shopping for the evening meal. It officially ends about 13 hours later when I’ve dropped off the last kid at home. It is exhausting and glorious work. I can’t believe God picked me for this job!

I’m sure that’s way more than you were asking Marcel, but if you or anyone else has additional questions, please feel free to contact me at either 510.782.6010 or [email protected] . Thanks!
-sue kuipers, Christ’s Community Church, Hayward, CA