The Power of "Intergenerational" Student Ministry (Update)
If churches could hire youth leaders from the WANTED section of a newspaper, what do you think the ad would say?
WANTED: Stereotypical Youth Leader: must be 21-25 years of age, have an engaging personality (but be submissive to deacon board), possess the ability to attract lots of students (and keep them from annoying the senior saints), play games (like the ones we played when we were teens), plan activities (but nothing that conflicts with the church calendar), play the guitar (not too loudly of course), and keep the parents happy (but please do not talk to them).
I would like to think this is a fictional approach to finding a youth leader but perhaps some of it might just be a little too close for comfort. Although very few churches would be looking for these exaggerated qualities, I think too often we do have a “stereotype” in our minds when it comes to youth ministry.
The best youth ministries are the ones who have embraced “intergenerational” ministry. They are the ministries that realize the value of having leadership representative of multiple decades. They recruit leaders of different ages, abilities and personalities.
Youth ministries that are staffed only by “twenty-somethings” will be as anemic as those relying solely on “fifty-somethings.” Mono-generational youth ministries are one dimensional and do not leverage the zeal of youth with the wisdom of age. When “intergenerational” leadership is incorporated into the church youth ministry, everyone wins and especially the students. Consider a few of the benefits of this ministry philosophy:
- Creates stability in leadership because you can harness zeal and wisdom.
- Provides a picture of the “body of Christ” as the students see people from a variety of generations ministering together.
- Serves as a good check and balance system for filtering ideas and programming.
- Presents students (who many times are from broken or troubled homes) with healthy adult role models.
- Creates the opportunity for leveraging strengths and minimizing weaknesses of multiple generations.
If you would like to read more about “intergenerational” and other youth ministry “best practices”, check out The Greenhouse Project, Cultivating Students of Influence, particularly the chapter by Dr. Steve Vandegriff from Liberty University. You can also read a great blog by Nathan Shoultz titled Building a Team – Part 2.