Why I Still do Youth Ministry:
Yesterday, I invited the Sunday School from my church to my home for a cookout and “Play Date.” Yes, in my 41st year as an ordained minister, and my 32nd year as pastor, I still engage in limited youth ministry. Before I was ordained into the ministry, in 1976, for my last two years as an undergraduate in college, I led a dynamic, very large youth ministry.
Thinking back upon that time in my life, I would say I was a better pastor to the junior high school youth ministry than I am as a fully ordained senior minister and pastor. The reason why I say this is that between 1974 and 1976, my life was far less complicated than now. Back then, my primary responsibilities were to study and play trombone in an R & B band. When I was 19, my father, who was pastor of the church, asked me to build a youth ministry for junior high school aged youth. The church had a robust and vibrant senior high youth ministry, and my father wanted to complete the circle by creating a youth ministry for younger children.
I accepted the challenge. My junior high youth ministry began with about eight youth and expanded to over 100 children, with an average of about 40 or 50 youth in attendance each Sunday evening in the lower level of the church. After each meeting, I would ask the children to go upstairs to the sanctuary for a brief prayer and devotional. Following prayer, we would go back downstairs, spin records and have a social hour with dancing and fellowship. I wish I could honestly tell you that I came up with this concept all on my own.
What I did with the junior high school youth ministry was to follow what I saw in Randy Evans, who was the church youth advisor when I was in high school. Randy was one of the best, genuine, and committed youth leaders I ever met. So, while I was also a very successful youth leader, my model was based on what I had experienced as a high school student as part of a dynamic youth ministry.
46 years later, even though my pastoral duties pull me in a thousand different directions, I still engage in limited youth ministry. While I no longer lead a regular Sunday evening youth meeting, or organize and chaperone Friday night youth dances and week-long Black College Tours, I still personally conduct a ten-week Confirmation of Faith Class at my home, where my wife prepares a meal for the youth and I talk about various aspects of the Christian Faith and church membership.
Yesterday, I invited the Sunday School over to my home for a cookout and games. After we ate, I invited the children to walk with me to the park at the end of the block which backs on the Detroit River. The park has a nice play scape and basketball court. The children had a ball and I kept telling myself, “This is why I went into the ministry.”
I think about the children I took to the park yesterday, and remind myself that several of my current leaders and officers in the church today were in my first youth group as junior high school students. My encouragement to all reading this post, particularly pastors, that we in the ministry might never become so overwhelmed and consumed with leading a congregation, that we forget the importance of ministering to children, when their minds, hearts and bodies are most receptive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Deuteronomy 6: 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
Questions for Reflection:
- What do you find most rewarding about interacting with youth and children?
- What aspects of youth ministry are most challenging for you?
Prayer: Lord, grant me a willing spirit. Humble my heart, that I might be patient with children and the young adult. Touch my temper, that I might find the right words and actions as I seek creative ways to discipline the children in my life. Lord, help me to expose children with the best of ideas, the best of skills, the best of love. Lord, grant me a willing and humble spirit as I offer my best to the children of the world. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.
Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Photo by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Additional Prayers Photos and Meditations from Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at https://nicholashoodiiiministries.wordpress.com/
More about the ministry, mission, prayers and publications of Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at www.nicholashoodiiiministries.org.