First Third Conversations

Life Teams by Jerry Watts

For years I have struggled to move beyond the “if we build it they will come” programmatic formula for youth ministry.

In my quest for fidelity to the great commission I’ve asked if counting heads in our programs is not bearing fruit (as both my experience and studies like Christian Smith’s Soul Searching tell us)…then what do I aim at to judge the fidelity we seek?

Kneeling in prayer is always the best first step in responding to that question. After I did that, I’ve found the Exemplary Youth Ministry’s Characteristics of Mature Christian Faith to be one of the ways God has answered that prayer for a new target.

In Greek the word Life (ζωη or zoe) almost always refers to life in Christ. (I’m taking Greek, can you tell?) We developed a design team in our congregation to build a ministry that was not based on program or schedule, but rather centered around relationships, Scripture, partnering with the home, and pointed towards the EYM’s characteristics for mature Christian youth. Sound impossible? Nothing is impossible with God, right? We went for it.

Even the design team was divided between the skeptical and the cautiously enthused. Some thought we just needed to work harder to attract more kids. Some said youth and parents wouldn’t respond.  Others said we would never ever find enough adults who would be willing to come alongside students.

We haven’t arrived yet but God willing we are starting to get our footing for a Life Team Ministry that accompanies youth in their life in Christ.  We are seeing the consequences in our young people and in the culture of our congregation itself.

Jerry Watts serves as a youth minister in Plano Tx. He's been at it for about 17 years, depending on what you count. You can catch him blogging about all things youth ministry at

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