Ideas to Action

“They [youth workers and pastors] agree with the findings but don’t put them into practice.” This was the frustrated voice of a reader in response to last year’s articles on intergenerational ministry.

The response was right on target.  There is a lot of discussion and writing taking place on how youth ministry practice must change in order to meet the challenges present in today’s adolescent landscape.  The support for intergenerational strategies appears to be growing in popularity and becoming the “in” term to bring up when discussing youth ministry strategies (I know I bring it up frequently—my volunteers joke with me if I do not mention the word at least once in the course of a meeting).   Even so, support for change does not always translate into action—thus the frustration.

I believe the source of disconnect between support and action is revealed when translating the following statements.

  • “Our attendance numbers are great!  Why do we need to change what we are     doing?  It’s working!”  Translation: I judge ministry success mainly by numbers.  A change in programming may scare people     away.  I have to please the     consumer.
  • “I do not have enough adult volunteers to pull     something like this together.”  Translation #1: I am the professional youth worker—the     adults are MY support staff (i.e. I have communicated by my actions that     adults are not needed in the youth ministry).  Translation     #2: I have not done the hard     work of building bridges with the adults in my church community. I work     with teenagers because I don’t like adults.
  • “My leadership does not understand.”  Translation     #1: They hired me to work with     the students of the church—I may get fired if I rock the boat.  Translation     #2: I do not want to spend the     time educating them on how ministry strategy has changed—they like me     right now.

In short, it takes courage and wise communication skills to change the course of traditional “2.0” ((See Mark Oestreicher’s Youth Ministry 3.0. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.))  events-driven youth ministry programming.  Here are a few pointers in moving the intergenerational mark in programming forward:

  1. Work the Deep Ministry process! I am not saying this because of my relationship with FYI.  The suggestion comes from experience in working through it in my ministry.
  2. Start small! Find the areas in which intergenerational programming naturally fit and begin at that place (ideas will arise naturally from working the Deep process).  The momentum will carry from that point.  Or at least opposition will become quickly evident and easier to deal with in small doses.
  3. Communicate well!  Any shift and/or new idea in programming needs to be communicated well to leadership, church members, adult leaders, parents and students.  It is amazing how well things go when everyone knows what is going on in the youth ministry.

One final thought: Just start somewhere!  This was the advice given to me by a professor in undergrad when resisting the start of my first “major” research paper.  I was filled with all types of questions and excuses.  Why?  True confession time: I did not want to do the work.  So, if you are convinced that intergenerational strategies are needed in youth ministry programming, get to work!