IMPACT – Ministry Philosophy
There is a single part of my ministerial retreat that sticks out in my mind above all else. You could say that it had the greatest impact on me. It came from the very first session from Mike Hilson. It was an acronym that ended up spelling out the word IMPACT. I think it was supposed to be a general series of growth that a person goes through, or perhaps it is how a Christian or pastor develops in their role as a minister/leader. However, as he was describing IMPACT, all I could think about was how it directly correlated to how I view youth ministries and the way that they should be managed.
IMPACT – Youth Ministry
Before I get started on the acronym, I would first like to point to the word itself. My ultimate goal as a youth pastor is to leave a lasting impact on all the students that I minister to. It is my goal for this impact to be big enough that they take their faith with them after they graduate high school. At this point in their life students have to make huge life decisions that will shape the rest of their future. Some of them are going to enter into the workforce, whereas others will be going to college. A few of the extra ambitious ones will do both. One of the things that students seem to save for last (if at all) is finding a church to call home. This might be easy for the students who graduate and are still able to attend the church from their youth. This is fine, but the students are still hopefully progressing to a point that their faith has a great enough impact on their life that it becomes an identity. This is why instead of just providing a place for students to have fun with others who share their faith, I envision youth ministry as a place that prepares them for the real world in which their faith will be more important than ever. This is the impact that I want to make.
This is the first letter in the acronym. It is also probably the most obvious. There are two ways that this is applicable to youth group. The first is that we also want to invite people to a relationship with God. The second is that we want to invite more students to youth group so that we can leave an impact on more people. The two most important parts of an organized ministry should be evangelism and discipleship. Invitation can help to fulfill both of these parts. We cannot hope to make an impact on people if we are not inviting them to God and the church (and perhaps even fun events).
The second letter gets a little more challenging in my mind. Maturity can be seen a number of ways. One of them is by looking at maturity in a discipleship way. This is maturing the relationship that students have with Christ. A deeper faith means a better sense of who God is and who the student is in the church. We definitely want to be making an impact on students in such a way that it deepens their faith. However, I also see maturity in another way as it pertains to youth group. We are maturing students in their lives. This means that we want them to grow up and act a little more like adults than as children. They are adolescents after all and we want them to be taking steps towards adulthood. In a youth group this means treating them more like adults than children. Focusing on tough topics and mature topics and treating them more like adults. If anything, the daily life a student in high school is far more rated R (or NC-17) than the normal life of an adult. Because of this, it only makes sense to treat the students more like adults. If they feel as though they are being treated like children the only impact the youth ministry is going to leave is a sense that God and the church is for babies.
First and foremost the youth ministry needs to exist to praise God. This means offering the students opportunities to worship God either through music, prayer, scripture, or some other spiritual act of worship. This can be done by encouraging students to praise God on their personal time as well as during a Sunday morning service. Youth group should never be seen as an all-inclusive answer for praising God. Additionally, I think that praise also means that the youth ministry is praising the students for their hard work. This could be in relationship to praising them for their efforts to praise God, or perhaps simply praising them for making wise decisions in life or excelling in some area in school or sports. The students need to feel as though the ministry and their peers care about them on a more intimate level.
Students should not be allowed to be passive in their faith. This means challenging them to act on their faith. As much as the ministry should be focused on making an impact on the student, the student should be focused on making an impact on the world around them. Mission trips, serving others, volunteering in the church and community, as well as holy living can be ways that students exhibit action in their lives. While their lives are busy and full, they need to be encouraged to exercise their faith as much as if not more than their bodies and their minds. Action is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
This is helping students to figure out what God wants them to do with their life. One way that youth groups do this is through spiritual gift assessments. Another way is by having leaders observe how they are doing things in life and interacting with other people. It could be particularly important to be on the look out for students who are interested or believe that they have a calling to ministry. Another way the youth group can help in this area is by providing students with opportunities to lead in the youth ministry itself. Discovering how a student feels called can help to better prepare them for the future.
The last letter in the IMPACT acronym stands for trust. Trust is a crucial aspect to any kind of ministry. The students need to trust the leader (and volunteers) as well as trusting each other. Youth group needs to be a place of openness, acceptance, and friendship. It should be a place to grow closer to God and his people. Students need to feel that they can share what is going on in their lives and express themselves freely. They need to be able to ask questions trusting that they will receive a good answer without being judged by others. Furthermore, establishing trust with students allows the leader to make the greatest impact possible. It can even be the case that this trust that is built helps the leader to continue making a difference in the student’s life after they leave youth group. Trust is the glue that holds the relationship together.
Reach, Grow, Serve
According to Hilson, the ideas behind IMPACT can be condensed into reaching, growing, and sending. In my mind this is exactly how a youth group should be. It should be the mission, vision, and purpose of the group. We are reaching out to the students that we have and to those that do not know the Lord. We are growing the students through the youth ministry so that they are developing a deep relationship with Christ. We are sending them into the world so that they can continue to make an impact in the world. This is the goal of youth ministry, and it is how I want to lead the students that God has placed into my care.
While going through this study, the following verse came to mind. It is what we should desire our students to become. Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
How are you making an impact for the Kingdom of God?
Hilson wrote a book that goes along with this concept. I bought it at the retreat and have been reading it. So far is pretty basic stuff. It is devotional by nature and probably great for someone who is learning the faith. Check it out.
(A Significant IMPACT for Christ affiliate link)