Missional Youth Ministry…At A Glance

I found this interesting post from Brian Kirk at RETHINKING YOUTH MINISTRY about missional youth ministry. So as we are considering Ministry for Mission as a Diocese I thought it might be useful to consider how our youth and children’s ministry might take on a missional shape. Are you trying an attractional approach??? How about a missional one? Read on:

Click to enlarge

I attempted to redesign a simple visual way to compare the earlier youth ministry paradigm known as “attractional youth ministry” and the emerging paradigm many would label “missional youth ministry” (you can click on the image above to see a larger version).  Though I resist suggesting these two views of ministry are in complete opposition to one another, I find it helpful to set them side-by-side to point out the differences.  In summary:

Attractional Youth Ministry

  • The weekly meeting/worship service is the focus.
  • Marketing is used to bring participants into that meeting.
  • Evangelism is focused on making participants into members of the group/church.
  • Programming (Bible study, mission, fellowship, worship) is all designed to draw or attract participants into that weekly meeting and church membership.
  • Most of the work is done by professional or paid ministry staff.

Missional Youth Ministry

  • The mission of the Church (big “C”) is the focus.
  • Participants are sent out to embody that mission in the world.
  • Evangelism is primarily about living out and telling the good news.
  • Ministry, rather than programming, makes up the bulk of the activity. All activity (study, mission, fellowship, worship) is seen through the lens of “What is our mission?”
  • Strong emphasis on the priesthood of all believers — empowering youth to find their own call within the ministry of the Church and to live it out in their daily lives.

Certainly there is overlap between the two models, but the greatest distinction is that one is more inwardly focused toward the Church as institution and the other more outwardly focused toward our call to ministry in our own daily context.  Your thoughts?  How might you change or tweak this model?  What is missing?  Does this connect with or push back against your understand of “missional?”


Discussion Starter: How will you be remembered?


I read this on the excellent RETHINKING YOUTH MINISTRY – i reckon it’s a good way to get young people talking and reflecting

This idea could provide a window not only into what values the teens in your group already carry with them, but what values you might help them explore in the coming year. Share with your teens the story of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. This story, perhaps apocryphal, encourages each of us to consider what, in the end, we want our life to be about. Nobel awoke one morning to find that a French paper had erroneously published his obituary, which condemned him for his destructive invention. This was a literal wake-up call for the inventor. Intent on leaving behind a more positive legacy, he determined then and there to create and fund the Nobel Peace Prize.

After sharing the story, invite your youth to project their imaginations far, far into the future and consider what they would want people to say about them at the end of their lives. What would friends and family share about them? What will have been their accomplishments? What will have been most important to them in life? Relationships? Money? Faith? Family? Career? You could invite them to explore these questions in a variety of ways:

1) Write a “In Memory of…” newspaper article about themselves,

2) Create graffiti about themselves on paper hung on the walls,

3) Develop their own epitaph and write it on an image of a gravestone (an interesting alternative if you are doing this activity close to Halloween or All Saints Day),

4) Team with a friend and act out a mock talk-show where they banter about the many amazing things each of them did in their lifetimes.

5) Simply go around the room and invite each person to share their thoughts verbally (allowing individuals to “pass” if they don’t want to speak).

Follow-up by asking youth to note what sorts of personal values their ideas about the future seem to suggest about their lives now and in the days to come.

Note: I can imagine some might find this a morbid or a touchy subject to discuss with teens. I’m reminded of a church member who told me recently that we really can’t start living until we acknowledge or own finitude. Our teens do think about death and the end of life, whether we talk about it with them or not. If we choose never to deal with the issue, we still teach them something by our silence. If the church can’t talk with youth about the end of life, who should?

If you want more discussion starters from RETHINKING YOUTH MINISTRY click here

RETHINKING YOUTH MINISTRY: make your own prayer labyrinth


Walking a labyrinth can be a great opportunity for helping your youth focus on the journey of faith.


With most of us getting ready to kick-off a new school year in our youth ministries, why not spend some time with your youth focusing on the journey of faith — both the journey of the past and the journey you are about to make together into the future?  The labyrinth is an ancient Christian spiritual tool for aiding individuals in meditation and prayer.  In many ways, it symbolizes the walk of the journey of faith.  We enter a labyrinth with a prayer or question offered up to God. The journey into and out of the labyrinth provides time to offer thanks for those who have walked with us on the journey of faith thus far and to seek guidance from God’s Spirit for the journey ahead.


If you aren’t lucky enough to serve a church that already has a labyrinth, it’s pretty easy to make one of your own. Labyrinths can be painted onto canvas or taped out on a floor with masking tape. But one of the easiest methods is simply creating an outdoor labyrinth using a few stakes, a piece of rope, and some biodegradable spray paint.  You can see in the images below the outdoor labyrinth we created at camp a few weeks ago.  It took about 30 minutes to finish.  The full directions can be found here.  Ideas for how to use a labyrinth with your youth are here and here.

RETHINKING YOUTH MINISTRY: Worship Idea – Growing With God

Try this simple hands-on worship experience to encourage your youth to seek growth in their faith.
Once a year in the summer our church joins several others in our inner city neighborhood for an outdoor worship experience just prior to the jazz concert in a local park that we co-sponsor.  The service is open to anyone who might be in the park early for the concert and we are often joined by neighbors and strangers alike.
This year our theme was “Growing with God.” We focused on the story of creation and how we are part of God’s ever-expanding movement in the world. At one point in the service, we invited people to come forward and take a slip of paper and write a prayer for those things in their lives for which they would ask God for growth (e.g. patience, trust, compassion, understanding).  They then folded up these prayers and placed them in the bottom of a small paper pot (see photo), added a few spoonfuls of potting soil, a couple of flower seeds, and more soil.  These were topped off with a tiny bit of water for good measure.
Next, participants used sharpies to write on the outside of the paper pots a prayer for those things they would wish to see growth for in the world (e.g. peace, economic justice, access to clean water and food for all, etc), and to contemplate how God might be inviting us to be a part of that growth.  Each pot was then placed with the communion elements and formed into the shape of a cross.  We then shared in communion and a communion feast of the various foods each person brought to share.  Neighbors who just happened to be in the park were invited to join the feast as well and to share their fellowship with us.
At the end of our time together, each person was invited to take home someone else’s pot, plant it in the ground, tend it, and contemplate how we are called to serve together in community to bring about growth in each other and God’s Kingdom.

turning youth ministry upside down

One youth minister’s idea for turning the attractional approach to youth ministry upside down.

The predominant approach to youth ministry in the United States (and the UK too ed.) is often referred to as the attractional approach.  It generally focuses on attracting youth to local ministries with entertainment and large group activites designed to get teens in the door Continue reading turning youth ministry upside down