The single-eared Mickey Mouse, lack of congregational engagement, youth-pastor driven youth ministry. If you are like me, then your youth ministry can sometimes feel like a separate ministry of the local church. What would it be like for your church to remember that there was youth ministry before there were youth ministers? What could youth ministry look like if every adult in your congregation was charged with praying for, encouraging and showing kindness for every student in your ministry? My belief is that it would look like the Church (or how the Church should be). In response to this issue, we developed a ministry we call “The Dugout.” The goal of The Dugout is for each student in our ministry to have multiple adults praying for and encouraging them.
We do this in a few simple ways:
The App – We developed an App that gives you the ability to make a really cool custom baseball card for each student in your ministry. On the front of the card, you can put the name of your youth ministry, the student’s name, a picture, their school and grade. On the back of the card are a few simple reminders for the adult on how to interact in the student’s life. Check it out here!
The Lesson – One very important goal is to teach the adults in your church what is going on in teenagers’ lives. Adults need to know what teenagers are struggling with, what expectations teenagers face and how our society “needs” from our teens. Finally, we want the church family to understand that they have an important role to play in the life of the teen. In many denominations when a child or teen joins the church, the congregation commits and even covenants to support that teenager and their family as they grow up physically and spiritually. The lesson is a great tool to teach small groups or even the whole congregation.
The Draft – After the lesson, we invite the adults to “draft” a student (pick up their card) and begin to be a “coach” for that student. A coach is someone who is willing to invest time, energy, attention and some expertise into their “player’s” life. Being a coach in this ministry includes three simple rules/strategies:
Prayer: We ask the coach to commit to praying for the student every day.
Kindness: We encourage coaches to say “hello” to their student when they see them at church or out in public and once a month commit some random act of kindness toward the teen (send them a gift card for ice cream, make them some cookies, etc.).
Encouragement: We ask coaches to find a concrete way to encourage the teen (and their parents) because it can be tough to be a teenager. Encouragement without favor is a lost art in our churches. Many students have to “do” something (sing a solo, play in the band, serve as an acolyte) to get affirmation from adults. We want to flip that and have our coaches encourage their student for just being themselves. That is countercultural.
What would it look like if every adult in your church was praying for every student? I believe that would be life changing for the youth, the adults involved and for the church overall. I encourage you to give “The Dugout” a try in your local church and see how God moves and unites your congregation.