I am so exited to invite Fawn Bauer to the conversation today. Fawn’s heart beats for Youth Ministry & the students God has brought into her life. She makes bold decision to follow wherever God leads her, and I’m honored to call her my friend. Today she shares with us some practical ways to build bridges between ministries that often seem to live in separate countries.
I’ve served in youth ministry over the last 13 years as an intern, a ministry assistant, a volunteer, and now, as a full-time youth minister at Sycamore View Church. I’ve spent a lot of time watching strong youth ministries become even stronger when they partner with children’s ministries.
I grew up at Brentwood Hills Church of Christ in Nashville and later worked with them as a youth ministry assistant. Their roots as a small church meeting in a home in the 1950’s had a great impact on the way they did ministry 50 years later with 1000+ members. When one ministry was overwhelmed, we all came together to help. My selfish side would think, “I’m really busy with my ministry right now. Get your volunteers to do it.” Our executive minister gently reminded all of us that we were a family, and we support each other. My ministry and your ministry were not going to work well in communal living. As a result the children’s minister led the Vacation Bible School mission trip full of teenagers. Children’s classes were responsible to bring in food pantry items each week. The youth minister acted in the children’s skits. The youth ministry students volunteered at the VBS. Youth ministry grades competed against each other for the best theme and costume at the children’s ministry trunk-or-treat. Later, the children’s classes on Sunday morning grew to a point where two class times were needed. As many children’s ministers know, recruiting teachers is a difficult task, so youth ministry students volunteered to teach. Youth Ministry and Children’s Ministry became more like Our Ministry.
I’ve been really blessed to serve as youth minister at Sycamore View and see more layers of Our Ministry lived out. The Youth and Children’s Ministries have chosen 7 core values that should be taught and emphasized over the life of a student at Sycamore View. For example with the Core Value of Developing, we hope a student in the children’s ministry will gain the ability to understand their inherited faith and in youth ministry a student gain the ability to articulate their faith independent from their inherited faith. When we look at children’s ministry and youth ministry events, we want to see our programs emphasizing these values and overlapping with long-term results. Our core value list is an intentional collaboration between our ministries to have a full and complete impact on our students (more on this awesomeness next week!).
Let’s take Developing a little further to see how the ministries can overlap and support each other. Our programs aim to “create environments in which students can witness others articulating their faith…[and] create moments when students are asked to articulate their own faith.” Our New Arrivals Blessing is a time to honor all new born babies and their families. We will ask a child in elementary school, a student in high school, a parent, and a grandparent to pray over the families. Together, we will all agree to support these families in their faith walk while demonstrating a lifetime of opportunities and ministries that the child can grow through. The child will, again, receive a blessing at the end of 5th grade when the children’s minister ceremoniously passes the 5th grader into the hands of the youth ministry. The next blessing for the student is at the end of their senior year. Throughout their 18 years, the student will have bumped up against our core values through biblical text, service experiences & relationships appropriate for their age.
Our previous children’s minister was great at intentionally crossing our ministries. She had her children mirror some of our ministry. She began having Parent/Child events to give opportunities for parents to be with their children that looked similar to our program. She encouraged students to support missions by making gift baskets to auction off and raise money for our high school mission trip. She also encouraged her students to participate in the local mission trip. The youth ministry was painting houses in the area, so the children’s minister gathered her kids in small groups and sent them out to all of our work crews to handout popsicles and pray over the workers and homeowners. It was a beautiful sight to have a 9 year old pray for a 17 year old.
I dream about ways that we can be more intentional. My co-youth minister and I are looking at the way we work as a team and setting goals for areas where we can improve as our new children’s minister joins our team. We have decided our team will work more cohesively if our office reflects inclusion of the two ministries. We are reconfiguring our office to have one welcome area for both ministries and have all of our offices off of the welcome area. My hope is our newest team member will feel like she can have input on youth ministry and seek our perspective for children’s ministry. It’s a small change that I think will have a valuable impact. Sometimes physical walls need to be torn down for barriers between ministries to fall as well.
I pray blessings over your ministries as we learn how to love our children and students more each day with the love of Christ.