How do you as a youth worker foster a missional culture in your youth group? Missional may seem like a buzzword people toss around. But to be missional simply means to shift your thinking, life, resources, and priorities toward God's gospel mission in your community, city, and world. So how do you begin to make this shift? It's not a small thing . . . certainly more than could be covered in a short blog post. But, there are some very practical things you can begin to do to foster this type of missional thinking in your youth ministry. Below are 10 simple ways to create missional opportunities.
- Make time to eat with students.--Most people eat three meals a day. (Well, students usually eat at least four!) That's over 21 opportunities a week for you to sit and engage in listening to and conversing with students. Eating a meal with someone is a great way to build friendships and grow deeper relationships.
- Work in public places.--If your pastor allows some flexibility, hold your meetings or prepare messages in coffee shops and restaurants. You may see a student working or find a parent. You may even hear conversations of parents talking about their teenagers. Working in public on a regular basis allows you to learn what is going on in the life of your community.
- Find out where God is at work and join Him.--Churches are notorious for thinking they have to start ministries from scratch (many do so because they want their name attached to it). Find out where other ministries and churches are at work and join them. Help students get a healthy perspective on the Kingdom of God. When students see you are not territorial, not only will they learn from you, but they may just model the same spirit of cooperation.
- Don't always be a homebody in the evenings.--Take your family to a movie, out to eat, or to the park. Go eat dinner with a neighborhood family who has teenagers. Be out where you can meet your students' friends who you may never see at church.
- Turn your garage into a front porch.--Front porches use to be where neighborhoods came together and conversed. Clean out your garage, fill it with drinks, snacks, music, and games. Then, invite people who walk by in the neighborhood to grab a drink and chat. It's a great way to share life with your neighbors. Or, plan a night to invite groups of students to just hang out with your family. No agenda . . . Just you letting missional relationships happen naturally.
- Have a consistent night of the week where your house has an open door policy.--If married, make sure to talk with the wife first, okay guys. If you or your wife have the gift of hospitality, it's a no brainer. Open up your home on a consistent night of each week for your students to invite seekers to hang out. Make it an intentional place for your students to bring those on the fringe. Eat, play, and have fun.
- Prayer walk.--Take your students prayer walking around their school. Use what you see as cues for prayer (football field, classrooms, etc.). Ask God to fill your heart with a love for students and a desire to see revival break out in students' hearts.
- Be a better listener.--If anyone is known for storytelling and talking, it is youth ministers. Be a listener rather than often thinking how you have a funny story to tell. Listen with gospel ears. Just as the Bible is the story of creation, fall, and redemption, every person has these categories in their story. Where do they find purpose (creation)? What are their struggles (fall)? Where are the looking for fulfillment and satisfaction (redemption)?
- Adopt a local school.--Get your entire church on board with pouring their time and resources into serving a local school. Build a better relationship with the principal and teachers. Find out the needs of the school.
- Pray with the restaurant's server.--One of my former pastors would always say to his server, "We are about to pray over the food, is there anything we can pray for you about?" Sometimes you get a smirk and a simple "no" but other times, you will hear the story of someone broken and in desperate need. It is a great way to be an example to your students.
Crafting a missional youth ministry philosophy is no quick fix. But these ideas can hopefully jump start the shift in focus.
- What are some ways you create missional opportunities in your youth ministry?