What are the Girl Scouts doing right and what can we learn from them?
Let parents and youth know what your goals are for the group.
When I walked in the door they gave me a sheet of paper saying exactly what aspects of character formation they are working on. This was there way of saying, “This is what we are about.” This included character traits like teamwork, honesty, diversity and loyalty. I read it and knew that these are traits that I want developed in my child.
Of course our value sheet can speak about Christian Formation such as Christian Education and developing a relationship with God. this makes us unique and we should be proud of that.
I also have not met a youth group yet, that did not work on team building, cooperation, and leadership skills to mention only a few.
Own the good that you do in your youth ministry
Let’s let people know that we are about learning to work together in groups, caring for one another, strengthening self-esteem and developing life long positive friendships.
In my last years of being a local church youth minister, I tried to begin every year with a parent’s meeting, where I let the parents know exactly what we were about, and why they should want to be involved in this. At these meetings they each household left with a sheet of paper detailing what we were about and why. They left knowing that I believed this was valuable for their youth and they should want their child to be involved in this ministry.
Let parents and youth know when your doing it.
I know this sounds like something we all do. But when I walked in that door I received a schedule of the year. I then went home and entered all of those dates into our family calendar. This schedule included special events and every night they are meeting for the whole year.
Too often in youth groups where I worked, I have to admit that parents found out what was going on month to month. It was only in the last few years of my parish ministry that I found a year long calendar to be invaluable. I know that my parents appreciated it also.
Be prepared for each meeting
Maybe my daughter is in a wonderful troop that is out of the ordinary, but the leaders seem to know each night what they are teaching at the meetings.
Like many youth ministers I know, I started out thinking that I could fly by the seat of my pants in youth ministry. Some nights it worked. Some nights even I got bored. In the last few years, I began realizing how important it was to prepare. For every 1 hour of a youth meeting, I needed to spend at least 3 hours preparing. When we do this, the youth and parents see that we value this time together. They actually could tell that I had prepared and would say, “Wow, you did a lot of work on this.”
Keep a regular ritual.
I am sure they have many more rituals that I haven’t seen, but each night the girls in the troop hold hands together in a circle and close with a creed.
There is great comfort in a simple ritual to end or start the night. I remember back to the youth group where I was a youth at First United Methodist Church in Muskogee, OK led by Sandi Rosson. Each week we ended holding hands in a circle and saying, “Let the Words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight. O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” No matter how crazy or chaotic our meeting was that always brought us back to why we were there. To this day that verse, still settles me down and centers me in times of trouble.
There are many things we can learn from organization like the Girl Scouts. These are some important ideas where I have thought, “Why aren’t we doing that better?”
All youth ministers know that what we are doing is valuable. Implementing these four ideas will let youth and parents know the same. They will know that your group deserves their time and commitment.