When Nothing Means Everything: Adding Space to Your Youth Ministry

Mar 24, 2020 9:00:00 AM / by Tera Michelson

We recognize that this is an unusual and even unprecedented time to be doing ministry. This post pertains to more normal times, and you may not find it relevant in the next few weeks. However, we are also aware that, with many of us working from home, some people may have more time to read blog posts now than they usually do. We hope that you will be able to read this now and use its guidance at such a time as our activities return to normal.

If you were to take a peek inside any teen’s backpack, you would inevitably find a planner. Often it is a spiral-bound calendar of the school-issued variety, with all of the dates and deadlines highlighted, reserving students’ futures, hour by hour. If not the traditional notebook, then you’ll find a color-coded electronic calendar app, complete with alarms and alerts, interrupted by the demanding dings of social media.

Our teens are booked. Their calendars are overflowing with rehearsals, study sessions, team practices, and hours of community service. Since grade school, they’ve been pinballing around town for playdates, lessons, and activities. During this important time of self-discovery that is adolescence, it is disheartening how much society places emphasis on “doing” over “being.” Jesus invites us into a life of rhythm: a time to work and a time to rest.

Time for nothing can mean everything to our harried teens. In this reflective season, build a little breathing room into your youth ministry. Consider these four ways to unfill your schedule:


  1. Take a trip down the holy rabbit hole: Push aside your instinct to keep your group on task and on topic. Allow the conversation to go wherever it may go. Students’ concerns and emotions bubble to the top when you let their thoughts and opinions intersect with your topic.


  1. Switch the setting: Trade high-energy for intensity. Speak in whispers. Gather around the flames of a fireplace or candles. Meet in a cozy place with cushions and soft flooring. Take a twilight walk in nature. When the scene is set for relaxation, students engage in a different way.


  1. Adapt your timelines: Stop stressing about filling every minute of your time together. Take time to properly greet and catch up with each other, less like a convention and more like a family reunion. Set reasonable start and end times for confirmation and youth group and don’t go over the times you’ve allotted.


  1. Silence is golden: Fight the urge to fill the silence, especially within a group discussion or prayer. Silence breeds reflection and can move the conversation to a deeper level. Wait it out and see what happens.

Our students’ schedules are begging for space for the Spirit to move. Turn down the volume, turn off the screens, and lead your students into the holy moments of unplanned time.

Topics: Youth Ministry

Tera Michelson

Written by Tera Michelson

Tera Michelson is a silver-haired youth leader, serving the church since 1994. She loves Jesus and teens. She is a pastor’s spouse, mother of three, and writes at the world’s loudest house on a hilly street in Ohio.


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