When it comes to the teenagers in our ministries, giving our best matters. The reason why is simple: “Getting better at youth ministry is worth the effort because teenagers are worth the effort,” writes veteran youth worker Kurt Johnston. With that in mind, he put together this compact, practical, and approachable book for youth ministry volunteers, brimming with insights and wisdom from his decades in youth ministry—including some memorable and hilarious stories of the mistakes that taught him along the way.
Broken down into ten essential topics, the contents here apply to all youth ministry volunteers, whether you’ve been involved for decades or days, and regardless of your age, gender, or the square footage and general awesomeness of your youth space. A roster of seasoned volunteer youth workers provide commentary to round out each chapter, offering perspectives and important lessons learned from their individual contexts.
Whether you read these words on your own or collectively with others on your youth ministry team, who knows: what you find here just might help you become the best volunteer youth worker in the history of the world!
So many teenagers are feeling ‘stuck’ right now, in so many ways. For many of them, that ‘stuckness’ extends to their prayer life. Throughout history, Christians have used written prayers to help put words to the longings of their hearts. And that’s why Jeremy Steele wrote the Book of Everyday Prayer. For this strange season of stuckness, we asked Jeremy if he could have teenagers from his church and a few other churches record themselves reading some of the prayers — specifically, a week’s worth of morning and evening prayers, and a few specific topical prayers that apply to the current lives of a teenager. These are our free gift to you and your ministry — post them for your teenagers in whatever online channel you’re using. Watch them together (at the beginning or end of a Zoom meeting or livestream), or post them for individual watching and reflection.
When I get asked about the future of youth ministry (as I have often been asked in these last weeks), I usually start by acknowledging, “I am not a futurist.” I’m actually not all that gifted at prediction. But I’m pretty good at observing current trends. And with that in mind, I’m going to make a few projections. Sure, maybe that’s semantics. But I’m calling these projections (of what I’m currently observing) rather than predictions. And I could be completely wrong.
In the 1920’s, after the Great War and the Spanish Flu Pandemic, Gertrude Stein, the mentor and patron of Ernest Hemingway, referred to youth as “the lost generation.“[i] A century later as youth are faced with a new pandemic, the world is at risk of another lost generation; one where the global youth sub-culture is defined by despair, discord, and disillusionment caused by the seismic cultural shock of COVID-19 and the resulting social tremors to come. In this social pandemic, societies must view youth workers – from mental health providers to youth pastors to community center directors – as essential workers (not that I’m suggesting they should ignore distancing or ‘shelter in place’ orders, but that their jobs are more important than ever). Before we can comprehend the magnitude of this statement, a few words about culture are in order.
In the uncertain times ahead, I believe global youth ministry is being presented with at least five pivotal opportunities to shift how we minister to and through youth. At every level – from local church ministers to denominational and social movement influencers – God is stirring significant shifts in the world of youth ministry as ministers adapt to the crisis brought on by the Coronavirus. As Colin Piper, Youth Commissioner of the World Evangelical Association, recently shared, “It’s a surreal season where on the one hand everything has come to a stop and on the other, things are developing at breakneck speed.” In my work with youth ministers around the globe, I’ve noticed five pivots amidst this pandemic.
Let’s start with the good news. Our survey shows that Youth Pastor compensation grew at a rate of 2.8% nationally. This is actually ahead of the governments 1.6% cost of living adjustment rate. So compensation for our tribe continues to grow and is on the right path.
As we’re gearing up for our 2nd Multi-Site Youth Ministry Campference coming in January 2020 we reached out to a few people and asked them why they are bringing their teams. Here’s what they had to say:
Multisite student ministry is such a different animal than other forms of student ministry and it’s really hard to find other people who get your world at other conferences. In addition, multisite churches are often on the frontier trying to figure out what this next generation of ministry looks like. Our team needs spaces to share ideas and problem solve with other churches who share our struggles. That’s why we’re bringing our whole team to the Multisite Youth Ministry Campference. There is nowhere else where we can get this kind of intentional collaborative learning.
Kevin Libick, Christ Chapel Bible Church, Fort Worth TX
I am bringing my team to the Multisite Youth Ministry Campference because we don’t need more playbooks and meetings. We need time away from the busyness of ministry to learn, process, share, laugh and to grow together as a team. This is the event we’ve been waiting for! Gina Abbas, Student Ministry Team Leader, Harbor Churches, Grand Rapids MI
It is the only training conference (with the fun of camp!) that gathers the best leaders of the multisite movement and provides space to dream together about the opportunities and unique challenges of student ministry in the multisite church context. This gathering directly shapes and informs how we are cultivating student ministry at all of our campuses.
Joe Graham, Multi-Site Director, Harbor Churches, Grand Rapids MI
I’m one year into the multisite youth ministry world and yes, it’s more complex and exciting than I could have imagined. I’m on a steep learning curve and want to keep growing! The pace and pressure of serving pastors, students and leaders across campuses leaves very little time for our team to get outside of our church bubble. Do we need more tips and tricks from “experts”? Yes. But even more, we need deep and meaningful conversations with others who are facing the unique challenges multisite student ministry. The Multisite Youth Ministry Campference will bring the collaborative growing experience my team needs.
Oh, and also important – our team needs time to simply breath and have some fun. There’s no doubt that will happen! Can’t wait to see you there.
David Grant, 12Stone Church, Lawrenceville, GA
Work in a Multi-Site context? We hope to see you at the Campference this January! Learn more here.
We are once again partnering with fellow youth worker Dan Navarra on his Youth Worker Compensation Survey.
Over the past three years this survey, and the reports that come out of it, have helped countless youth workers like yourself get compensated more fairly. Want to get a raise? You need data. Want to make sure you’re hired at the right rate of pay? You need data.
That’s why we need you to participate! The more youth workers who take the survey the more accurate it’ll be. Help us advocate for you.
The survey takes a few minutes but is well worth it. We’ll even send you the completed report when it’s ready in December.
Who Should Take the Survey? If you are a part-time or full-time youth worker with youth ministry as part of your paid work duties. As much as we love interns and other support staff roles, this survey is for the paid youth worker.