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Taking Off The Training Wheels

Taking Off The Training Wheels

My first real bicycle came on a Christmas morning. I can still remember it all these years later. I remember that the bike came with training wheels. After only about a week or so, my dad decided it was time to get rid of the training wheels and teach me to ride on my own. Oh, I wobbled and fell over many times, but eventually I learned to balance myself on the bicycle. The training wheels got put in the garage where they would stay until my younger brother got his first bike.

In April of 2011, deadly tornados ravaged many parts of the south, especially Alabama.

Three communities near us were hit very hard. The devastation was overwhelming. There were many in these communities who lost everything. The day after the storms I was at my church and received a phone call from a young lady in Montgomery, AL, 200 miles away. She had obviously heard of the devastation and wanted to do something to help. Three days later, this young lady arrived at our disaster relief distribution center with several friends from her school, parents, and an eighteen wheeler full of supplies. This young lady, who I discovered was a tenth grader, organized the entire effort and even stayed over the next day with two other friends and two parents to pitch in and help out where needed.

How often do we as youth ministers and youth leaders underestimate what the American teenager is capable of doing?

After my encounter with the students from Montgomery, I found myself wondering if I was guilty of doing youth ministry with training wheels. As long as I enable and oversee everything involving students, will they ever learn to do anything more than "ministry with training wheels"? This encounter led me to think long and hard about every facet of my ministry with students.

At this point in my youth ministry journey, I'm thinking it's time to put the training wheels in the garage. Here are questions I am asking myself . . . I'd love your input.

  • How do you bring younger students along in their faith and a what point do you start taking off the training wheels?
  • What are the plusses and minuses to youth ministry without training wheels?
  • If you are having success with students taking the lead in ministry, what are some things you do to point them in that direction?


(Originally posted in 2013)

About The Author

Richard Parker

Richard Parker

Richard Parker is the resident youth ministry guru at YM360. Richard has served as a youth minister for the past 41 years. ("Shockingly, he was Les' youth minister yet STILL decided to stay in ministry"!) He is currently co-pastor and student minister at a new church plant, Branches Church, in Russellville, AL. Richard serves as a special projects editor and staff writer. Richard wrote YM360's "REACH: A 6 Lesson Study on the Book of Psalms" and has contributed on all of YM360's ongoing curriculum projects. He's also written many of YM360's free lessons, devotions, and blog posts. He and his wife Amy have two daughters, Lauren and Leah, one granddaughter and one grandson.