The Secret Sauce for Youth Ministry

It might not be what you think!

This past weekend there was a Toy Story marathon on TV.  Throughout the weekend I could sit down at any time and jump into this iconic movie trilogy.  As I watched these films, I was once again aware of the   numerous messages that can be taken from these films and one message is evident: the toys care for each other.  These films are great examples of the secret sauce for youth ministry. You’ll be amazed to see what it is!

Its Community! But how do you make it happen?

We all need community in our lives, and especially in youth ministry.   Students need a place where people know who they are, that they are cared for and appreciated, and are encouraged in their spiritual growth. True community is the space where this can happen.  Here are some reasons why community is important:

  1. When true community takes place we go beyond the superficial. It’s important as leaders to dig into a student’s life. If we ask the question: “How was your week?” don’t settle for just the “Good” response.  Ask pointed questions: “What can I pray for you about?”, “What has God been teaching you through His word?” “What have been some challenges that you have faced?” Ask the questions that will allow you to dig into their life and seek opportunities to encourage them.
  2. When true community takes place people care when others are not there. In Toy Story 2, Woody chases after Mr. Squeaker when it is discovered that he has been placed in the garage sale. They were not willing to let one of their group be discarded.  The same needs to be in our youth ministry.  Seek out those who are missing.
  3. When true community takes place, challenges are never faced alone. Throughout the film series, the toys are faced with various challenges: recusing Woody, escaping from Sunnyside Daycare, etc. No matter the challenge, they face it together.  In life we all face challenges and hardship, having a community of believers around us provides support through prayer and encouragement.
  4. When true community takes place, we learn to work through conflicts. When a group of people come together there will be conflict, it is inevitable. 1 Corinthians 1:10 states: I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.  As believers we are called to work through our disagreements with one another. This is not always easy, but at times we need to put aside our pride and seek harmony.  Relationships can be messy.  However, it is in the messiness of relationships with others that we’re reminded of our need for Jesus.
  5. When true community happens, we learn to forgive. In the Toy Story series, the toys forgive each other after every conflict that takes place.  Think about it, Woody forgives the rest of the toys after they threw him out of a moving truck! The apostle Paul paints a picture of what forgiveness is in Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  We are forgiven because of Christ’s work on the cross, He loved us, took our sins upon Himself and now we are forgiven.  This can be the hardest part about community, but it’s the part that makes us most like Him.
  6. When true community happens, love is demonstrated.  We are created by of loving God who longs to be in relationship with us. As well, God gives us each other as a way to meet our earthly needs for love. This brotherly love (phileo) is given as a picture of the greatest friend who laid down his life for us.

Community doesn’t happen by chance! 

But we can make it happen if we are ready to work at it every time we get students together. It is so needed but so often neglected! I hope you can make it happen for your students.

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Matt is the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has over 20 years of student ministry experience all over the country. He has 3 kids. His 2 girls are in their teen years so he has lots of opportunity to put his student ministry years to good use at home everyday. He's completing a Masters in Adolescent and Family Counseling.