Change content before structure

In grad school, I took a class called Theology of the Church taught by Dave Rahn. During it, we talked often about the form and function of the church. Dave's point was that form should always follow function, not the other way around. In other words, since form (structure) is less important than function (purpose), something's purpose should dictate it's structure.

I wish I would have had this class years ago, before I last transitioned from one ministry to another.

In a recent conversation with a soon-to-be seminary graduate, after talking about some of the struggles I encountered during my first year at my church, I was asked, “If you could go back and relive that year, what would you do differently?”

In my head, I heard Dave's wise voice chanting, “Form and function.”

You see, my first year at my church, I walked into a youth ministry that was largely social in nature. Teens were used to gathering weekly. In fact, teens looked forward to getting together every week and talking about whatever was on their mind. Sometimes, those things were spiritual; Other times, they weren't.

Needless to say, as a youth pastor, I knew I didn't want our main gathering to be purely social. I mean, relationships are important but a youth ministry's main gathering needs to have CONTENT. It needs to be Jesus-centered.

So I added Jesus to these weekly gatherings.

I did so by structuring my ministry the same way I'd structured my previous two youth ministries. We played a game, worshiped a little bit, and then teens listened while I gave a talk about Jesus. For me, that structure – game + worship + a talk – was what youth ministry was. There was no other alternative.

Read the rest of this article, Form and Function, here. 

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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