Programming Within Comprehensive Youth Ministry

The Comprehensive Model is best implemented using a variety of program offerings organized in time formats and settings designed to meet the needs and interests of youth and families. This comprehensive style of programming is characterized by the following elements of effective ministry with youth.

Balanced Ministry Programming: Demonstrates a balance among the components, program settings, and methods so that the needs of all the young people and their families can be reached, and all the resources of the community wisely used. Given this broad scope, it is very tempting to emphasize only one or two components or to sponsor only gathered youth programs.

Interest-centered: Develops programming based on the needs of youth and families. Programs are designed around the different interests of youth and families so that they attract a wide spectrum of participation. This avoids the problem of attempting to create every program “with everybody” in mind.

Variety: Realizes that no one format or timeframe works for everyone so it thrives on a variety of program formats, gathered and non-gathered; a variety of program schedules – weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, extended time, full day, overnight, weekend, weeklong, 3-6 p.m. weekdays; a variety of environments for programming – parish facility, homes, retreat centers, community centers; and a variety of leaders in different program setting. There is so much diversity in needs and so much competition for young people’s time that a youth ministry must be very creative in offering formats, settings and schedules that respond to the real life situation of young people.

Freedom of Choice in Participation: Overcomes the “you have to come to everything” mentality by allowing young people the opportunity to select the programs that best address their needs in a time schedule and format that best suits their interests and life situation.

The comprehensive model is similar to a university which offers a variety of courses on different topics, at different times, and often at different locations to meet the needs of its students. By providing well written and interesting program descriptions and by providing guidance to young people as they select programs, this model gives young people the variety to find a topic or program that meets their needs and is offered when they can attend. The key in this model is offering enough variety to both respond to the adolescents’ needs and to attract them to participate.

There are many advantages of the comprehensive model’s approach to programming:

  • It clarifies the purpose of each program since each program meets different needs. Youth ministries which embrace the comprehensive model offer a variety of program content, but each program has a specific purpose.
  • Interest-centered programming builds attendance patterns with multiple involvement of youth. Youth ministries which embrace the comprehensive model find that participation increases because of responding to needs, offering variety, and giving people the freedom to participate in the time and format which best suits them. Simply put, it fits the family and young people’s schedule better.
  • Recruiting leaders could be easier since you are asking for shorter-term commitment with more clearly defined responsibilities. The paradox in the comprehensive model is that you will need more volunteer leaders, but it will be easier to find them because you are clearer about their job and their time commitment. Like everyone else, leaders have busy lives. Experience has proven that a youth ministry which offers a variety of program content and program schedules will have an easier time finding leaders than a youth ministry which offers only weekly or year-long leadership roles.
  • Specializing develops the talents and gifts of youth and adults more effectively, and there are more opportunities for expanded youth leadership, Effective youth ministries match the gifts and abilities of an adult or youth leader to a particular program, develop his or her competence and confidence in conducting the program, and then offer the program multiple times (in a year or over several years) for different groups of young people and/or families. This maximizes the investment of the leader and reduces leader turn-over. The variety of programming offered in the comprehensive model offers more leadership roles for youth, more opportunities to plan and conduct programs, and more settings to minister to their peers.
  • Youth get more involved with adult role models since the group size in each program tends to be smaller. In the large, gathered youth groups, young people may have only had contact with one or two adult role models for the entire year. In the comprehensive model, they have the chance to interact with a variety of adult role models in a variety of program settings. Even though the programs may be short term in duration, the adult-youth ratio is better, allowing for the development of more meaningful relationships which can continue after the program has concluded.
  • Programs can be allowed to die without endangering the rest of your offerings. By regularly evaluating programs, you can determine which ones are ineffective or have addressed a need which no longer exists and can therefore be dropped or redesigned. With the variety of program offerings, no one program carries the responsibility for the entire ministry. This allows for a high degree of flexibility in addressing new needs.

The comprehensive model, with its eight components, create a natural management system. Each of the eight components could be coordinated by a task force or committee of youth and adult leaders who would be responsible for developing and conducting programming;. A youth ministry team or council representing each component could coordinate the work of the various task forces or committees, set policies and direction, and evaluate programming. In smaller churches, the eight committees could easily be substituted for one youth ministry team which coordinates the youth ministry, as well as plans and/or conducts programs.

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