In 30+ years of being in charge of a variety of ministries (church and parachurch), I’ve found great value and blessing in being connected to other youth leaders through gatherings of all sorts—local, national, and virtual. Out of those three avenues of networking, the one that has boosted my ministry impact the most is my local Gospel Advancing network. It’s been a refuge, a resource, and sometimes a prime ministry outlet.
If you’re a youth leader and don’t feel connected, please consider partnering with other youth pastors and student ministries in your area. Here are 9 ways that networking can lead to more effective youth ministry:
1. Local youth group events
Collaborating on events isn’t usually a network’s primary focus, but through relationship-building, our network has seen several groups combine for local service projects and all-nighters. The impact multiplies when teenagers meet students from other ministries who go to their same school, and they can begin connecting at school to encourage one another and reach other students for Christ.
2. More effective camps and retreats
I’ve seen some of the best camps and retreats be prayed up, planned out, and delivered as a result of the collaborative efforts of leaders in our networks. When you combine with other youth pastors, you’re often able to do more than you can on your own. Plus, your group can benefit from the teaching gifts of other leaders (and other groups can benefit from yours!).
3. Shared discipleship
In today’s society, we share students. Some teenagers attend one church on Sunday with family and another one on Wednesday for youth group. Tag-teaming allows us to be on the same page with families and individuals.
4. Collaboration on missions trips
On a few occasions, our network’s groups have gone out on mission trips together. This has been phenomenal, especially because many of our students return to the same schools as partners in mission for the other 51 weeks of the year!
5. Opportunities to witness
You don’t often see a group of people gathering in public and laughing, talking, and then praying. Our network gatherings have brought about a number of Gospel opportunities, as onlookers ask: “Who are you people?”
6. Strong friendships
Our network gatherings have brought about deep friendships. Some of these friendships have gone far beyond the ministry connection, as we socialize together with spouses and families and “do life” together (including babysitting swapping)!
7. Companions for spiritual/ministry retreats
Several local youth pastors and wives have gotten away for a renewal retreat, concentrating on personal refreshment, laughter, and marriage.
8. Consistent accountability
There are so many common struggles with relationships, sin, ministry issues, and much more. At times of weakness, I’ve ben gently rebuked, uniquely encouraged, and spurred on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
9. Refuge and prayer
Our network is safe. I’m known in this community, and I know I’m supported in prayer. If our group “errs” on one side, it’s that we want to love on each other and pray for one another more than anything else.
As you partner with other youth ministries and leaders, I think you’ll find, as I have, that the connections not only increase your youth group’s impact, but they keep you personally enthused and effective over the long haul.
To connect with an existing network in your area, check out this Gospel Advancing map (click on the blue icon nearest you, and a leader will contact you). For tips on starting a Gospel Advancing network, click here.