Youth Ministry: Sources And Resources
By Mark Stokoe
Building or rebuilding a parish youth program can be a frustrating experience. We are all familiar with the litany of problems: too few kids, lack of time, lack of money, lack of training. . .. However, there is help.
With the upsurge in interest in youth ministry in the past years, a corresponding increase in youth ministry resources has taken place. This rising interest reflects a clear phenomena: a vibrant youth ministry is one of the most effective ways to build up a local parish. In a recent survey of 553 families across North America more than 80 percent said that the church’s youth ministry was an important reason they joined their current church. Indeed, more than 20% of those interviewed stated that a vibrant youth ministry was the “main reason” they joined their new parish. In the same survey one military family explained their answer this way: “Our travels and experiences have shown that a dead and dying youth group is the first sign of a dying church ...”
Successful youth ministries begin with adequately trained leaders. No one in the parish is too old - or too young - to assist in youth ministry. A well balanced program, in fact, will use all ages: older persons to act as advocates and counselors - middle aged couples as role models and teens and young adults in peer ministry. A successful youth group will be one in which the whole parish is involved - through encouragement and support. The following books can help your parish begin to assemble a youth ministry leadership team:
Starting a Youth Ministry by Larry Keefauver, Group Books, 1984. 80 pages. Available from Group Books, PO Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539. $5.95. (A step by step recipe to start or renew a parish youth ministry. Easy to read!)
Volunteer Youth Workers by J. David Stone and RoseMary Miller, Group Books, 1985. 72 pages. $6.95. (Focuses on recruiting, team building, and increasing parental involvement.)
Effective Youth Ministry by Roland Martinson, Augsburg Press, 1988. 152 pages. Available from Augsburg Press, Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440. $5.95. (Subtitled “A Congregational Approach,” Martinson deals with the whole topic from adolescent physical and intellectual development to getting started. A solid book.)
Leadership for Youth Ministry by Northeast Center for Youth Ministry, St. Mary’s Press, 1984. Available from St. Mary’s Press, Winona, MN 55987. $8.95. (A Catholic manual, this brings together practical approaches and concrete, useful strategies for the recruitment, training, and support of youth ministry leaders.)
Understanding, communicating with, and assisting the youth to whom we seek to witness the Orthodox Gospel of Christ is fundamental. Several good books and tapes are currently available from our seminary bookstores:
Who is God? Who Am I? Who Are You? by Dee Pennock, Early Church Publications, 1973. 160 pages. $4.00. (An introduction to basic Christian psychology from an Orthodox perspective, it remains the classic.)
Youth Dynamics by the DRE of the Antiochian Archdiocese. 1980. 4 tapes. $20.00. (A set of four tapes that deal with adolescents in the church, practical ideas for educating youth, etc.)
ORTHODOX YOUTH MINISTRY
Each one of the major Orthodox jurisdictions publishes some guidelines/helps for running a specifically Orthodox youth ministry. The major ones include:
Ministry to Young Adults: Guidelines by the Department of Youth Ministry - Greek Archdiocese. 1984. 45 pages. $2.00. (Focusing on young adult ministry with the goal of creating an Orthodox Christian identity, this small guidebook is basic to the Greek Orthodox Young Adult Leagues.)
Source Book for Youth Work by John Matusiak, et. al. DRE of the Antiochian Archdiocese. 96 pages. $6.00. (Still the best, even after twenty years!)
Youth Leadership Resource Guide by YAL of the Greek Archdiocese. 55 pages. $10.00. (A loose-leaf notebook divided into four sections, dealing with planning, implementing, growing, and continuing growth in youth ministry through a series of short articles by various authors.)
Despite the best intentions of leaders, youth ministry often breaks down due to unproductive, unbalanced, or uninteresting programming. One of the things one must remember is that the Church is competing with MTV nowadays: older forms of youth activities - long talks, large group discussions, etc., are now rarely effective. We know that Orthodoxy, the Church, and the spiritual life can be as interesting, challenging, exciting - if in different ways - than the false values offered to our kids. Our task is to be as creative as possible to share these values - and thus, the role of programming in youth activities becomes central. Time is so limited that “just getting the kids together” is not enough - we must use every opportunity - from icebreakers, to games, to small groups, to discussions, etc. - to witness and offer support. Effective youth ministries are now concentrating on small groups that offer support and nurture through a relational ministry. Most Orthodox parishes are well-suited to maximize the potential benefits of these new approaches.
The Encyclopedia of Icebreakers by Sue Forbess-Greene, University Associates, San Diego, 1983.
Great Ideas for Small Youth Groups by Wayne Rice, Group Books, 1982. 100 pages. $9.95. (If you have a small group this activities book is for you!)
Building Community in Youth Groups by Denny Rydberg, Group Books, 1985. 178 pages. $9.95. (Rydberg offers practical models for transforming any group of kids into a close and caring family.)
Jr. High/High School Talksheets by David Lynn. Youth Specialties. 112 pages. $9.95. (A great way to begin discussions through single page introductions to burning topics of today’s young people: faith, sex, rock and roll, drugs, friendship, etc. Basically Bible studies, these can be easily adapted for Orthodox use by including sections on the Fathers, liturgy and prayer as well!)
Creative Gaming Vis. 1-6 by Mike Yaconelli et. al” St. Mary’s Press. 130 pages. $8.95. (Specifically designed for Catholics, and thus, more applicable to us than most Protestant material, each volume has some good ideas. Skip Volume 4 on “Worship” however.)
The Apocalypse I The Orthodox Christian Way of Death by Fr. George Gray, Youth Department - Diocese of the West (OCA). (Two resource handbooks on important topics, well suited for retreats, etc., from an Orthodox perspective.)
The preceding are but a few of the resources currently available in book form, or on tape. Video cassettes that cover youth ministry training and programming are also becoming popular; a future article will deal exclusively with those. What is lacking therefore is not resources, nor opportunities, but the will and commitment to risk working with our youth.
Each of the major Orthodox jurisdictions now offers yearly regional youth leadership training seminars - either separately or in cooperation with one or more jurisdictions. Check with your national office of youth ministry for the seminar nearest you. Youth ministry is rarely easy: but it is always exciting, rewarding, and fun!