Youth Work I-A: Organization and the Congregation

[To read the introductory post on this topic, as much of this advice builds upon and flows from the principles laid out in it, click here.]

To begin, the principle that ought to drive the organization of youth work in a congregation is that youth work is:


Parent and Pastor Led– God ordained parents and pastors to shepherd the youth of a congregation, for the sake and in the best interests of the youth.


Youth Work Coordinator

Before getting to specific congregational organization, it is useful to briefly mention an essential scheduling role. Ultimately, someone must be responsible for producing a calendar of congregational youth activities and coordinating people to plan and chaperone these events. This is why “youth work coordinator” is the most accurate description for this crucial role. Such a layman must be a well-respected, organized, and responsible member of the congregation.

This youth work coordinator must be able to work well with the pastor, communicate with the families of the congregation, and be aware of the community’s calendar of local events. While this is a crucial task, it need not be overwhelming. Perhaps the most important skill this person must possess is the ability to delegate responsibilities. While it will be natural for the coordinator to personally help with many of the congregational youth activities, he should not be planning the details of events that have been delegated to others, nor be the lead chaperone/worker at each activity. He ought to “farm out” as many of the duties as possible. The point of coordinating is to combine many peoples’ efforts in harmonious action.

The youth work coordinator must realize that his personal effort cannot, nor should, be the decisive factor for the success of the youth work in the congregation. He should be ready to face ups and downs with consistency and determination, without falling prey to “magic bullet” thinking or an inclination towards fads and gimmicks. In other words, he must be ready to allow failure.

In most situations, this winds up being a parent of one of the youth in the congregation. However, the pastor may take on this coordinating role without adding a significant burden if he is organized and capable of delegating. Some situations may demand a coordinator. In others, it may be most expedient for the pastor to do this himself.  Regardless of the situation, the pastor must supervise and be personally involved with the teaching and the training of the youth.

Whether the pastor of the congregation or a layman/parent takes the lead in organizing and planning the youth work of the congregation, the following are some guidelines on the specific matter of organization in regards to the congregation:


1. Ought there be a specific board or committee for youth work?

If there is one in place, it may be useful. If you do not have one, or if it is functionally defunct or burned-out, I do not believe it to be necessary nor desirable to form one. Certain boards are good, but if you don’t absolutely need one, don’t create one. Folks just do not like boards and committees. Why, because they are all too often ineffective and waste time.


2. Under which congregational board should youth work ideally fall?

Every congregation probably already has a Board of Christian Education. Whoever is taking the lead on organization and scheduling ought to be a member of this board.  Or, if the pastor is taking the lead on this, he is already an ex officio member of every board. This meeting ought to be utilized as a sounding board and a place to report what is going on with the youth work in the congregation. The Board of Christian Education is always to be made up of congregational members committed to and skilled in Christian education. Particularly for the purposes of youth work, it is advisable to have current parents of youth on the Board of Christian Education.


The next post will continue to discuss the organization of congregational youth work, specifically addressing organization and the pastor.


About Pastor David Ramirez

Pastor Ramirez is the pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Union Grove, WI. He is a 2008 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne. In 2009, after staying another year at CTS as the Historical Theology Department’s graduate assistant, he was called to Zion Lutheran Church in Lincoln, IL and ordained into the office of the holy ministry. Some of his particular interests are the teaching of Bible History and youth work.


Youth Work I-A: Organization and the Congregation — 3 Comments

  1. In my experience, there needs to be more of a focus on equipping parents to teach their own children. Too many parents want to completely dump this responsibility on the church. Rather than focusing on youth groups and youth activities, churches should be focusing on whole families and inter generational interaction. Most children spend a large portion of their time in school interacting only with people of their own age. Do they really need more of that age-related isolation at church?

  2. @Joya #1
    I tend to agree. The “youth program” thing is admirable, but too often it becomes a substitute for in-home family Bible reading and catechetical study. As somebody who experienced this in the evangelical church from both ends (as a teen and as an adult), I can tell you that there is simply no substitute for home-first Christianity.

  3. I absolutely agree.

    These very points are addressed, at least in part, in a subsequent section (I believe two posts from now) and in my introductory post that I mentioned above:

    Intergenerational gatherings are essential, and the ghettoization of age groups is obviously a temptation of our age. However, within a strong familial framework, it is certainly helpful and appropriate to have some specific activities for different ages as well.

    All of my writing on youth work presupposes the broader teaching of the faith in the congregation and the importance of emphasizing strong families.

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