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Seven questions to start the year right

I recently listened to a podcast that outlined a few simple questions to use when making decisions. I found myself thinking about questions I’d ask when considering if my youth ministry is being effective. Here is my list:

  1. If God withdrew His Holy Spirit from my youth ministry, how would I know?
  2. If Jesus replaced me as the leader, what might He do differently?
  3. Would I be happy for my teenage son/daughter to be discipled by any one of my leaders?
  4. If we were to stop meeting as a youth group, would our young people (still) come to our church?
  5. If a young person stopped attending our youth programme, how long would it be until someone let them know that they are missed?
  6. If we were to stop doing anything that was not contributing to the making of disciples, what would be left of our youth programme?
  7. If I had to resign as the youth leader this week, how easy would it be for someone else to seamlessly take over my role?

I’ve compiled this list using a set of seven indicators of an effective youth ministry. I’ve been using this list of indicators with youth pastors I’ve been coaching over the past few years. Each indicator consists of four characteristics giving leaders a list of twenty-eight points to consider.

Over the coming weeks, I will be covering these characteristics one by one, providing more detail and giving illustrations. Before I do, a disclaimer.

If there is one thing God has taught me over the past forty years it is that He refuses to be put in a box. The moment we think we have God figured out by reducing ministry to a simple formula of “If-I-do-this-then-God-will-do-that!” then He shifts the goalposts and shows us that we have forsaken faith in Him to faith in a technique or recipe.

I recall seeing God move profoundly among our young people at an Easter Camp some years ago. Back at church, we tried to replicate the camp experience at our weekly youth meeting. To our disappointment, the momentum was soon lost because, I suspect, we made the mistake of thinking we had discovered the magic “God-formula” and in rebellion to our fool-proof plans, He simply sat back and waited for us to trust Him alone again.

Yet while I have learnt that I cannot put God in a box and there is no simple formula to guarantee effectiveness, I have noticed over the years that effective youth ministries have certain characteristics in common.

Starting next week we will look at these one by one. In the meantime reflect on the questions above and consider discussing them with your team.