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Using Youth Ministry to Teach Independence to Students

We’ve been talking about independence and what we can do to raise independent kids and promote it in students. One obvious tool we can use as youth leaders, is our youth ministry.

We may complain about parents doing too much for their teens instead of letting students do it themselves, but as youth workers, we tend to make the same mistake. That’s because it’s much faster to clean up the youth room myself, than to supervise four students who take twice as long with not nearly as a good a result. Well, deal with it. The only way students can learn is by letting them do it, even if they don’t do it well at first.

Here’s a whole bunch of practical ideas to use youth ministry to teach independence to students.

In Small Groups

Here’s what you can do as a small group leader (as you will see, there are both practical tasks and spiritual ones and they range in difficulty from incredibly easy to far more complicated):

Have students do the grocery shopping for your meal, including making the necessary shopping list. If that’s too big a step, take them with you when you do the shopping.

  • Have students cook the meal, or if that’s too hard: a part of it. Have them observe while you’re cooking and explain some basics.
  • Ask students to load the dishwasher and turn it on. You’d be surprised at how hard this is for some!
  • Teach students to tidy up after small group, maybe even run the vacuum cleaner
  • Have them prepare a small group study, or let them lead a part of it.
  • Let a student prepare an icebreaker game and let him or her lead it.
  • Led a student lead worship during small group.
  • During dinner together, talk about issues like what healthy food is, how much food costs, and how you manage to stay on a budget.


In youth services

In youth services, I’ve always tried to let students to as much as possible, eg ushering, pouring drinks and serving snacks, leading worship, making videos, creating ‘special moments’, doing stage and room décor, cleaning up afterwards, etc. The keyword here is delegate. Delegating does not mean letting go of everything; it means assessing a student’s knowledge and skills and their willingness to do the task and instructing and supervising them accordingly. We’ll unpack this concept more in a next post.

In Youth Retreats

As with small groups and youth services, the options are limitless:

  • Have students prepare a game during the retreat and lead this.
  • Have students lead worship.
  • Let a student prepare a testimony or small talk.
  • Teens can serve in the kitchen and help prepare food.
  • Let the teens clean up after themselves, for instance in their sleeping quarters, or in the dining area you use.
  • Have students come up with creative elements around your theme and support them in executing these ideas.

In the Youth Ministry

In my youth ministry in The Netherlands, we set up teams within the youth ministry where students served. We had an Events team for instance, a Worship team, a Facilities team and a few more. The idea was to get as many students involved as possible, by assessing their talents, skills, knowledge and willingness and having them serve in one or more of the teams. Each team was supervised by a (young) adult.

Not all teams functioned well, but some did exceptionally well. And we saw teens step up when they were given the freedom and the responsibility. There was coaching and training involved obviously, but the students amazed me in what they were able and willing to do. And their success was inspiring to other students who stepped up as a response.

As you can see, there’s lots you can do in using your youth ministry to teach independence to students. It’s not always easy, since letting students do anything is more often than not messy and definitely not efficient in the short run. It requires vision, perseverance…and a whole lot of patience. But it’s so worth it!

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