Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Commitment and the BIG MO in Youth Ministry

Summer is winding down and our youth group is getting ready to kick off our Sunday small group program in the fall. This program is not a new one, but we have taken the summer off since the majority of our students scattered like cockroaches when school let out--band camp, football camp, family vacation, going to stay with grandma for a week, etc. And so now we want to start strong and build consistency and momentum going into the school year.

I've been a player and fan of sports my entire life. The concept of momentum (the Big "Mo") is one that is debated among people in the sports world. Some will say that key plays during the course of a game have no effect on that team's ability to make more critical plays. Others, like me, though, believe that one key play can be a turning point. One key play can be what causes a team to realize they can actually score on the next possession, close the lead, and/or pull off the upset. Momentum is what makes it easier to push a rolling car than it is to push a car that is setting still (and is hopefully in neutral with nobody's foot on the brake!). So how do we get a new program rolling from a dead standstill? The answer is simple. Commitment.

I thought about how important it is that parents and students who participate in our program be committed from the beginning. For the first 4-6 weeks, we need to have everyone there. This is not the time for one last trip to the lake or that family vacation. (These things aren't bad, but they are detrimental to the re-establishment of any ministry program). I also examined the climate of the program, with and without the commitment of the students.

No Commitment:
Worship feels small, worshipers are timid
Adult volunteers are frustrated (waste of their time)
"Where is everybody?"
Discussion groups have little to no discussion
"Who else is coming?"

With Commitment:
More friends=more fun
Group discounts
Inviting visitors
Fun with friends
Discussion groups have more discussion
More relationships built
Worship is exciting
Students don't have to wait for the next big event to enjoy youth group
"I can't wait for Sunday/Wednesday night"
Synergy--The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

We live in a culture that doesn't honor commitment. With celebrities being known for being flakes and professional athletes whining over getting $4.5 million instead of $5 million, it's no wonder that commitment is not a mainstay of our students' lives. Some kids sign up for a sport or activity and decide halfway through the season they don't want to do it, parents often let them drop out. Or the kids join an activity only to have their coach or volunteer bail out because he or she doesn't have time. But I think commitment is important to God and should be to us.

In Exodus 16 the Israelites have been in the desert for several weeks and are running out of food. They miss the "pots of meat" and abundant food they had in the oppressive land of Egypt. So God provides manna (bread) from heaven that he requires them to gather daily. The crafty Israelites soon try to outsmart God and decide they will gather a surplus so they don't have to gather it daily. The Bible says that it became rotten and full of maggots. God wanted their daily dependence on him, and their daily commitment to trusting him.

Commitment in any ministry program can be a catch 22. You need active kids to get them committed and you need commitment to have active kids. So let's start this school year off as youth workers, parents, and students with expectations of being committed to our youth ministry this school year.

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