8 Benefits of Being Part of a Local Youth Ministry Network
There are many benefits from being a part of a network of youth ministries and churches in your area. These are especially true for smaller churches where there might be only a few volunteer leaders. But whether or not your youth ministry staff is five or fifty, you can benefit from working with other churches in town.
1. Save money by sharing resources.
Working at a church with no youth budget, I know how tough it is to purchase curriculum. In a few instances, I’ve teamed up with another church to split the cost of curriculum. Then we share it. We also lend out books and previously purchased resources to one another on a consistent basis (You might want to somehow signify who the book belongs to). We have saved a lot of money by simply sharing resources.
Sharing resources also includes sharing facilities. My church, for example, has a gym/multipurpose room, while the church town the road has an amazing stage with sound and lighting. We leave the door open for the other churches in the area to borrow our activity center for their use.
Todd Perkins suggests sending out an “all church” email with items that would be needed for ministry events. Returns on such an email would greatly reduce the strain on youth ministry budgets. He has some great ideas for sharing resources on his blog as well.
2. Save time by sharing resources.
Four churches in our community gather on the first Sunday of every month to do our adult and student leader training together. We divide the responsibilities among the youth pastors, so one month, one of us will teach, another will do an icebreaker, etc. Toward the end of the meeting, we break up into our church groups to tackle specific issues relevant to our individual churches. This saves us a lot of planning time and allows our leaders to get to know leaders from other churches.
Similarly, a group of youth leaders in Alexandria, MN have held their own training conferences.
3. Get out of an “idea rut” by sharing ideas.
Nothing is worse than running out of ideas to illustrate a point, or games to break the ice with your group, or lessons to teach. Especially during busy months or if you’re suffering from burnout, recycling ideas from other churches can help you get through a tough season of ministry. I can thing of many games and lessons that other pastors in the area have borrowed from me, and I from them. Jeremy from Small Town Youth Pastor has a great post on how networking can help you exchange ideas and some thoughts on how to get started.
4. Do bigger events together.
Mathematically, you can charge less to an event if more people show up. More people can show up if you combine with other groups. We’re planning to do a winter/spring retreat in 2010 with four or five churches. We’re going to split the booking, teaching, worship leading, and gaming responsibilities among our pastors. Then we’re going to charge the kids less because more will sign up.
5. Do outreach together.
Doing outreach alone can be daunting, especially when it involves going to where kids go and striking up a conversation with a kid you don’t know (trust me, I’ve done it). Going with other leaders gives you more support, and helps you build credibility with those you meet (since they will know you have friends your own age and that you’re not a creepy stalker). For example, go to lunch together at a location you know kids go, hit up the local skatepark together, or volunteer to coach a sport together.
6. Be a role model to kids other than your kids.
I had two kids in the past few weeks, from two different groups, come up to me and tell me I was their “second favorite youth pastor.” Second, of course, to their youth pastor. At first, I thought the comment was odd, but as I thought about it, it’s great to know that I’m making an impact on kids who are not in my youth group. I can support my friend’s youth ministry by spending time with his kids.
I hope that leaders from other groups can have that same kind of impact on my kids.
7. Give your kids more access to adult role models.
I’ve found that some leaders from other churches have had a bigger impact on my kids than me or my leaders. Some types of guys gravitate to similar guy leaders and girls to similar woman leaders. A fresh perspective might be the thing that allows one of your kids to understand a point that you’ve been trying to hammer for months. Developmentally, kids journeying through adolescence need many adults to support them through this phase in their life. It takes a village to raise a child and, to a certain degree, it takes the whole kingdom to raise a child spiritually.
(But they’re our kids. Shouldn’t we be able to take care of them on our own? In the end, they are all God’s kids who He has allowed us to shepherd for a season. At the end of the ages, we will bow down next to our youth group kids before King Jesus. This is such a humbling a comforting truth.)
8. Receive additional prayer and support.
Whether or not you receive adequate support from your superiors, pastoral staff, and parents, it’s always helpful to receive support from other youth pastors and leaders. In fact, prayer should be the start of any youth ministry network. Sometimes it’s especially useful to vent to someone who is not involved in your church’s hierarchy or politics. James 5:16 says that the prayer of the righteous is “powerful and effective” (NIV). Trust that it is!
There are plenty of more potential benefits. What am I missing? What other benefits do you see or have you experienced? I’d love for you to share your stories below in the comments section.