I wrote a chapter for a friend’s book a few years ago when I was transiting out from youth ministry. Just came across it again and thought it will be a blessing for anyone who is going through ministry transition out there. Do share this to encourage others!
On 4th November 2000, after a season of praying and waiting, Cornerstone’s Youth Ministry, Generations, was born. It started with about 40 teenagers, and at the first service, the Senior Pastor, Ps Yang gave a stirring message about how young people can transform the world. Since then, the Generations’ mission is to transform teenagers into passionate lovers of God.
Fast-forward eight and a half years, at a tearful service on the last Sunday of April 2009, I gave my final address to the Youth Ministry. By then, Generations had grown to about 400. In those eight years, we had seen more than 1500 pack into a hall for our big events, held a number of impacting youth camps and outreaches, and had multiplying cell groups. I had given my twenties to pioneering the youth ministry, and will be passing the baton to a team of home-grown leaders.
Almost all kinds of transitions are tricky to navigate. I believe a lot of the lessons we learn from Youth Ministry will help prepare and define us for the next season of life. So, in the following pages, I will share candidly about the lessons I have learnt on my journey and hopefully they will be useful pointers for YOUR journey.
Creating a Culture that Facilitates a Smooth Transition
1. Building a people-empowering culture
i. Having a strong leadership culture
You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. (2 Tim 2:2, NLT)
All through my leadership, I’ve made it a point to instil in the young people the belief that they will one day become leaders. Adopting the 2 Tim 2:2 ethos, we had the 15-year-olds learning how to teach the 12-year-olds. With a strong leadership culture, older youths are given the responsibility and empowerment to disciple the younger ones. In this way, the youths see themselves as emerging leaders and recognise that it is a matter of time before they take on leadership positions.
ii. Distributing authority to younger leaders
Give your endorsement to the younger leaders to take authority over some ministry areas. This creates a platform for them to take ownership of that which has been placed in their care. Distributed authority creates avenues and opportunities for younger leaders to grow and build confidence. One way I have done this was to give the younger leaders some airtime on Sundays so that they become more visible. This visibility meets both objectives of empowering the leader, as well as getting the youths to recognise them.
A caveat to note: Make sure that your ministry is not built on the charisma or gifting of a single person. Almost all our young leaders have served in one way or another in the Ministry of Helps in their teens. For years, they would be the first to arrive and the last the leave, making sure that the toilets are cleaned, the space is set up and the environment is conducive for the youths to experience God. They did everything without complaints.
There is an unspoken rule of thumb in Generations that the route to greatness starts with being faithful in the mundane.
iii. Creating an atmosphere of honouring leaders
Honouring is a form of empowering. Recognising the effort they put in tells your leaders that they are appreciated. Honouring also reminds the current leaders of their responsibility to continually invest into the younger leaders. With the habit of honouring leaders, the younger leaders will come to recognise that they are set up for future leadership roles.