Power in Numbers
When Youth Ministries Actually Network Together
by Jonathan McKee
I see the same thing from my rental car as I pull into every town across America.
Baptist church on the left.
Presbyterian church on the right.
Methodist church 200 yards down the road.
Community Church (who used to be Baptist, but changed their name) a minute further.
Then the sobering moment: when I sit down with the youth worker from one of those four churches I always ask, “So do you know the youth workers at those other three churches…the ones we could throw a rock and hit because they’re so close?”
And the answer is almost always the same.
“Uh, well…I’ve just been here two years and I’ve been kind of focusing on trying to get things settled here first, and…”
Almost every time.
Two out of three times I’ll speak or teach a parent workshop in the community that week and one of the other pastors will even come out to hear me…and then book me to the same town again this time to speak to their congregation.
The funniest thing is that most of these churches have very little differences. Sure, one might dunk, and the other sprinkle, but honestly, you could go to church for a year and you wouldn’t even know the difference.
Even funnier (not funny ha ha, but funny peculiar), most of these churches struggle to do camps, retreats, and events like bringing in a speaker to teach a parent workshop because they just don’t have the numbers. But if all four churches came together…the possibilities just grow exponentially.
I know, I know…I’ve heard every excuse.
1. If I network with this other church, my kids might start going there.
First, who cares! If the Gospel is being preached then so be it. Second, most kids aren’t going to go somewhere else if their family is plugged in at your church. So try to reach the whole family and this won’t be a big deal. And honestly, if a family is growing in their faith at another church then celebrate that.
2. My pastor won’t let me.
Your pastor probably isn’t against networking with other believers for occasional events or retreats, he just won’t let you cancel youth group and just go to the Baptist youth group every week. Has your pastor ever heard of events like the National Prayer Breakfast? How about a Billy/Franklin Graham Crusade? (and if your pastor doesn’t believe in those events, my guess is you’re probably not reading this article anyway, you’re spray-painting picket signs.)
3. I don’t have the time.
Correction, you aren’t making the time. And you always have time for networking. Networking could eventually buy you time when you’re dividing up duties for the next camp you all do together or the next big event you’re planning.
You can’t read Paul’s letters in the New Testament for even 10 minutes without stumbling on a passage about getting along with others. Stop quarreling (II Timothy 2:24), beware of divisions among you (I Corinthians 1:10-13), avoid foolish controversies and dissensions (Titus 3:9-11), be of one body (Colossians 3:12-15)…or Jesus himself who said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” (Luke 11:17)
A Kingdom-minded ministry is about reaching kids for Christ and plugging them into the local church…not your local church.
It’s amazing when you see God’s people embrace Kingdom-minded ministry.
A couple years ago a group hired me to come train the youth ministry leaders in a small town. I showed up at a coffee shop on Saturday night and as we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, I quickly realized that about 8 churches were represented in the room. Come to find out, the youth workers from these 8 churches met together once a month in that very coffee shop to encourage each other and talk youth ministry.
Better yet, they told me about a school across the street from one of the churches who lost the funding for their “free lunch” program. The network of youth ministries jumped on the opportunity and committed to feeding the kids once a week. Now every Thursday 8 churches (the churches, not just the youth ministries) each take turns feeding almost 500 kids. Kids have the option of “going to church” for lunch. They eat, have a little fun and hear a little bit of truth from God’s word.
Because the Kingdom of God looks like this.
How’s it look in your town?
FIND MORE FROM JONATHAN MCKEE ON MINISTRY AND LEADERSHIP ON HIS AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.