What is Family-Based Youth Ministry?

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I am posting a three part summary of the book.  The first part HERE dealt with the need for family-based youth ministry.  The second part below deals with what family-based youth ministry actually is which is covered in the second half of the book, chapters 7 to 12.

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What is Family-Based Youth Ministry? 

Chapter 7: It only makes sense The Vision of Family-Based Youth Ministry

Researchers have discovered that young people who grew up in church attending the worship service and not Sunday School were much more likely to be involved in church as an adult than those young people who had attended only Sunday School without attending the worship service. 

The real power for faith formation is not in the youth programme but in the family and the extend family of the church.  Family-Based youth ministry recognises this, and these two things a priority. 

Priority 1: Empower Parents 

By supporting them and equip them to pass on their faith to their teenagers as effectively as possible. 

Priority 2: Equip the extended family of the church 

By providing the teenagers with extended Christian family, which is done by allowing them to experience the extended family of the church community.  This is especially beneficial for those who don’t come from Christian homes. 

These two principles can be implemented with any model of youth ministry.  Churches need to be intentional in choosing its youth ministry model and then undergirding it with family-based programming. 

The primary goal of family-based youth ministry is to equip young people to grow toward mature Christian adulthood. 

Chapter 8: Beyond the Cleaves The Challenge and Opportunity of Ministry to Nontraditional Families 

What every teenager needs in order to growing in Christ (faith nurturing family and extended faith nurturing family) is especially true for those from non-traditional families. 

There are many types of non-traditional families: Divorce, single parent, blended families and stepparents, with chemical dependency, with aging grandparents, in financial crisis, with both parents working. 

We are unlikely to be able to reach all these families and their needs specifically, but we can provide a consistent personal ministry to each teenager.  The extended family of the church can support for these families. 

Chapter 9: Walking the Tightrope Family-Based Youth Ministry and the Developmental Need for Independence 

There are two needs with regards to faith formation that teenagers have: 

Need for continuity – faith community to be involved in, a ‘family friendly’ youth ministry. 

Need for individuation – helping young people establish their own faith identities. 

Family-Based youth ministry is not about abandoning traditional forms of youth programming (which deals with the need for individuation) as much as it is about building the foundation of solid connections with mature Christian adults (which deals with the need for continuity). 

Chapter 10: A Different Gospel Youth Culture comes to Church 

Three of the dominant characteristics of our culture are in opposition to the Christian gospel.

1) Individualism – Christian discipleship happens in the context of Christian community.  Although we do want our teenagers to become independent in Christ, that is they stand on their own faith.  

2) Consumerism – Christian discipleship is not about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain and boredom.  Discipline is a key component.  If you build your youth ministry upon an entertainment model, the young people will be consumers and will move on when they get bored of it.  

3) Demand for success – Christian discipleship is not about treating God as the most efficient means to success in life.  It’s about learning to trust God during times of failure and suffering as well as times when everything is going well. 

Chapter 11: God Calling Thinking Theologically about Youth Ministry 

When dependence on God’s grace is excluded from our thinking we end up trusting in human strategies.  All our systems are not enough to lead us to repentance and faith.  We can only support teenagers in the growth that only God can bring.  This means the best we can do is to work with God’s design for faith formation. 

God’s first provision is the family (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  Sunday School and youth group is not a substitute for the spiritual training in the home.  The Sunday School movement began originally as outreach to unchurched poor children.  

God’s second provision is the Christian community.  God wants people connected to the community of faith.  Ideally every young person who makes a commitment to Christ should be eager to become part of a specific church.  The parent’s commitment to the community of faith should also hold them accountable for their faithfulness in the home. 

The Christian family is a tool for building faith and character in God’s children, but the family is not God and without His work will not be able bring any growth. 

Chapter 12: Making it work Implementing a Family-Based Youth ministry 

There are two main approaches to family-based youth ministry. 

1) Family ministry model – this aims to empower families and support the ministry that rightly belongs to families.  So churches employ a ‘families pastor’ whose role is to empower and equip parents to nurture their children in the Christian faith.  Programmes under this model might include divorce recovery, marriage enrichment, and parenting seminars.  One problem will always be the parents who do not and will not take the initiative of doing Christian nurture in the home. 

2) Youth ministry model – this aims to help young people come to maturity in Christ by accessing their family and the extending family of the church.  

There are two types of family-based programming. 

1) Uniquely family based events – such as parent/youth Sunday School classes, retreats. 

2) Exfamized events – taking a programme already in place and infusing it with parents and extended Christian family of adults.  If an event worked with your young people, try it with young people and parents together.

Cold Turkey Evangelism

In the February 09 issue of The Briefing is a helpful article on walk-up evangelism by Ben Pfahlert.  Here are some of things from it that I noted down: 

“Walk-up evangelism is walking up to a stranger and sharing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

“Walk-up evangelism assumes that the Christian initiating the discussion has no existing relationship with the person they approach.” 

Why we don’t do walk-up evangelism 

The reasons for doing walk-up evangelism are much the same as the reasons for doing evangelism full stop, but there are some reasons why we don’t do it that are specific to walk-up evangelism. 

“It does more damage than good.”  “It just doesn’t work.”  “I’m no good at it, I haven’t got the right personality.” 

These are pretty poor reasons.  Walk-up evangelism can do more damage than good, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Just because we might not see immediate results doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work.  God can use people who don’t think they are good at evangelism but who faithfully share the gospel to save people through Jesus. 

The key reason why people don’t do walk-up evangelism is “I’m scared.” 

Tips for doing walk-up evangelism 

  • Go in pairs (same sex) – this provides accountability.
  • Approach lone members of the same sex – enables the conversation to be more focused.
  • Have a set goal – find out what people think of Jesus, give a short gospel presentation.
  • ‘Walk-up evangelism’ is not the same as ‘Walk-up invitation’ – walk-up invitation (inviting someone to an event) rarely leads to walk-up evangelism.
  • Before setting out read the Bible and pray together – helpful passages include 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
  • Approach someone who doesn’t look busy or pre-occupied.
  • Make sure that your first words introduce yourself and contain a genuine question which they can opt in or out of.
  • Afterwards spend time praying for those who you spoke to. 

See also my notes from a seminar on open-air/street evangelism HERE.