Understanding this Season of Youth Ministry

I live in Western New York, which means experiencing drastic seasonal changes every year. We get into the ninety degree temperatures in the summer, and below zero degree temperatures in the winter. I’ve actually broken my car door handle off because it was so cold! That wasn’t a fun night.

With my location, comes great changes to the scenery…snow covered winters, rainy spring times, and so on. If you asked me my favorite time, I would have to say…

Autumn.

There’s just something about the beautiful array of colors on the leaves of the trees, the crisp air, football, & apple pie! I would love for this season of the year to be a lot longer than it actually is, but the reality is there’s nothing I can do to make that happen. 

Many times in youth ministry, or in any ministry at that, we get attached to different seasons and we hope…we pray for that season to keep going on!

But it doesn’t.

And it shouldn’t.

We all love the “summer seasons” where we have a group of teenagers that we’ve had the privilege to lead for several years, who then come into leadership roles themselves. We’ve already gone through some of the growing pains and springtime showers of the season before, and now they’re ready to be leaders and you’re ready to let them be leaders. We’ve figured out some great ways to reach out to their peers, as well as seen them all discipled in the ways of Christ. This season is so good in so many ways that we try to ensure that this season never changes. We try ever so hard to keep things happening in certain ways, but forget the inevitable; seasons change.

Now, the idea of ministry seasons changing might sound like a really simple concept, but do you calculate that into the mix of your youth ministry vision? It’s easy not to, but I believe it is absolutely essential to the health of a youth ministry.

There’s a description of one of the tribes of Israel in the Bible during the genesis of David’s reign as king:

Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command (1 Chronicles 12:32).

Now, I don’t know too much more about these guys, but in this one description of them I find myself really liking them.

Why?

Because they understood the times or the seasons and knew what the nation needed to do. Which also means, they knew what not to do.  And it was all based upon them understanding the season they were in and the seasons that were going to come.

Do you understand what season of youth ministry you are currently in, or are you just doing youth ministry stuff? Do you understand the season that is coming or are you just hoping for a better season?

Let’s give an example. Right now you are hoping and praying for a season of growth in your youth ministry. Let’s just be honest, not only do you want to see teens grow in Christ, but you also want to see more teens growing in Christ! That’s not a bad thing, unless the youth ministry is not prepared for it… Let’s say all of a sudden your youth group went from fifteen teens to a hundred in a week’s time…glory, hallelujah! What would happen though if you weren’t prepared for that kind of growth? Would a bunch of those teens fall through the cracks so to speak? Would you have enough adult volunteers to effectively disciple those teens?

You see, a lot of times we are asking God for a new season, but we haven’t faithfully stewarded the season we are currently in. Desiring growth spiritually and numerically is fine, but do you think God is going to entrust people in your care if you’re not prepared, or if you don’t understand the season you are in and the season that is coming up?

Probably not.

So I guess, it’s probably good to do a season assessment… seasonally. Evaluate and gain understanding of exactly which season you are in. Is it a “growth” season? Is it a “rebuilding” season? Is it a “stepping out in faith” season? Is it a “killing some sacred cows” season? Maybe you need to overhaul some things, maybe just do some minor restoration work, maybe you are to stay the course…the list could go on, but when you evaluate and gain understanding of the season you are in, it sets you up to have clearer vision for the future.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re trying to plant, but it’s not planting season, your efforts are going to be very much frustrated. In fact, it doesn’t make any sense at all to plant  seeds in the winter time, but some people try to do this when it comes to ministry. Figuring out the season you are, helps you to understand what to do.

A wise guy once said:

For everything (even youth ministry) there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

Now, I’m not recommending the time of war in youth ministry unless it’s a Nerf War, but you get the drift. The season we are in directly affects what we do. If it’s a rebuilding time, then maybe you focus solely on relationship building. If it’s a younger group, then maybe you focus on a lot of interaction in your lessons.

What season of youth ministry are you in right now? Is what you are doing effective in the season you are in, and is it preparing for the season that is coming? 


Craig Campbell is the Lead Pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church, which is located in his hometown of Lockport, NY.  He has been serving the local church for more than eleven years in different capacities such as youth ministry, worship ministry, young adult ministry, and more. He and his wife Jennie have four amazing kids whose names are Leland, Hudson, Adalyn, and Lillian.