As we continue to settle into where the pandemic has left us, it is easy for us in the church to look for specific people to blame for the lower numbers, staff resignations, and shift in morale.
In my work with the faith formation and youth ministry leaders throughout the Southern New England Conference, I have seen this blame being placed on those who minister to children, youth, and families. This blame, can weigh heavy on them as they are pressured to be the one (and sometimes the only one) who brings new families into the life of the congregation.
These leaders are often part-time employees or volunteers who typically have young families and sometimes other part-time jobs. They cannot do this job on their own.
Despite the current outlook in many of our churches, I am envisioning thriving congregations that are a welcoming home for new families, young adults, and others. I envision this happening in partnership with faith formation and youth ministry leaders through the creation of a culture of acceptance and appreciation for all.
This is what many families and young adults are seeking today, and bringing this culture of caring relationships out into your community — beyond your church building’s walls — helps to attract those who are seeking what you have to offer.
This same kind of love, care, and support is also needed by your faith formation and youth ministry leaders so that they can provide the leadership needed for this ministry. These leaders provide spiritual nurture, connections between people of all ages, celebrations for key church events/holidays/rituals, learning opportunities for all ages, community outreach and mission opportunities, and resources and models for making connections between the church and home. All this is part of a culture of welcome and acceptance that our congregations need to thrive.
I see three key areas where these leaders can use support — from pastors, supervisors, committees, and the congregation itself.
1. Faith Formation and youth ministry leaders need professional support.
Guide them to the resources and support from the SNEUCC Faith Formation Team, check in with them by providing a periodic review at least annually, and pay for them to attend webinars and training events that will enhance their ministries. And most importantly, support your faith formation and youth ministry leaders with commensurate salaries with benefits so that they can live comfortably without having to bring the stress of making ends meet into their work life. If your congregation cannot afford this kind of monetary support, consider supplementing with other means such as providing childcare and car maintenance at no cost to them, for instance.
2. Faith Formation and youth ministry leaders need outside support.
Help your faith formation and youth ministry leaders to keep abreast of current resources, ministry models, and best practices. The SNEUCC Faith Formation Leadership Program offers 13 classes that give faith formation and youth ministry leaders the skills, resources, and confidence to minister more effectively within a congregation. Our partnership with Practical Resources for Churches provides high-quality webinars at no cost. And encourage your leaders to connect with other faith formation and youth ministry leaders in the Southern New England Conference in a Faith Formation / Youth Ministry Leader Community of Practice.
3. Faith Formation and youth ministry leaders are susceptible to burnout.
Working most weekends of the year and on church holidays makes it difficult for your leaders to take time off for the relaxation and rejuvenation that they need. Ensure that they get enough breaks and vacation time. Give them a weekend off every now and then! Check in with your leaders often. Ask them about how things are going, both in their ministry and in their spiritual life. Ask about their dreams and ministry goals. Ask what you can do to be of more support. Tell them that you appreciate them, and do this often!
Of course there are more than just three ways to support your faith formation and youth ministry leaders, but these three provide a great start for making the ministry of your entire congregation vibrant and appealing to all.
Debbie Gline Allen serves as a Minister of Faith Formation on the Conference’s Faith Formation Ministry Team. She also serves as the administrator of the SNEUCC Faith Formation Leadership Program. Her passion for ministry is with children and family...