Sustainable Youth Ministry

Sustainable Youth Ministry, by Mark DeVries has had the most significant impact on me as a youth pastor since I read Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields thirteen years ago.

Over the last year and a half I have read through it twice; the first time simply to check it out. By the end of it I knew there was more to take and away and apply from it then I could possibly remember on my own. I grabbed the Kindle version and reread it, highlighting my way through and using the Kindle print function to end up with about 14 pages of highlights and notes, as well as a two page checklist of how I’m going to apply the principles in the book to the youth ministry I’ve been called to.

Basically, DeVries gives the administrative and foundational tools needed to set up a youth ministry structure designed for longevity and sustainability. I love that he acknowledges from the outset that most youth pastors, by virtue of the gifting necessary to connect with teens and families tend to not be wired in ways needed to manage the significant and often times unexpected administrative side to student ministry. Because of that, he approaches it in a very easy to understand style, walking the reader step by step through recruiting, training volunteers, building teams, delegating, setting up a structure that enables growth and longevity independent of the personalities. He teaches the reader how to create key documents, vision statements, how to set goals and revisit those goals. He also gives valuable insight on the budgeting process, staffing needs and ratios to students, and more.

To be honest, it was a lot of the critical tools and lessons I needed to be able to speak the language of the professionals that fill my church.

All that to say, I’ve been setting into motion a lot of the lessons I’ve learned. I’ve been in conversation with my senior pastor about it as I’ve been developing goals and he’s excited about the directions we’re headed in as well. In short:

  • We’re restructuring our volunteer teams in a way that will better prepare us for growth and help us do what we’re currently doing better
  • We’ve been finalizing work on various control documents (job descriptions for volunteers, vision statements, covenants, org charts, seven year teaching plans, etc)
  • Setting realistic and specific goals for this year, the next three years and the next five years

A lot of what is being applied is below the surface and not necessarily immediately noticeable. But the long term effect should be profound and I’m excited about it. One of the advantages of having my senior pastor on board is the prospect of bringing Mark DeVries organization, Youth Ministry Architects, out here in the next couple years to do a comprehensive evaluation of our progress and give us direction on how we can continue to become a sustainable youth ministry. He likes the goals and the value of what we’re pursuing, and voicing the intent for an evaluation now helps prepare the budget needs for it to happen down the road.

All that to say, if you’re in youth ministry and you haven’t read Sustainable Youth Ministry yet, it’s a must.

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