In defense of structure

My new youth ministry met for the first time last week.

By all assessments, we had a great first night. The room was full and teens were engaged in our conversation about vocation.

Afterwards, I was chatting with one of my adult leaders. When I asked him what he thought of the night, he responded, “It was definitely structured.”

This was not a comment that came as a surprise to me.

I am Type A. I’m super organized and very structured, something I’ve heard is different from my predecessor.

As a result, I went into our youth ministry’s first gathering with a clear plan for our time together. I knew what I wanted to discuss, what activities I wanted to lead, and what games I wanted to play long before the night began. I even knew what my desired outcomes were.

I planned these things intentionally because I wholeheartedly believe that structure is important to youth ministries for four reasons.

1) Structure helps teens know what to expect. Knowing what to expect makes teens feel comfortable in a space.

2) Structure helps create a culture of welcome. Without structure, inevitably a few teens (typically the cool ones) dominate a youth ministry’s space. They tend to control the conversation and make only certain teens (or types of teens) feel welcome. Structure, in contrast, levels the playing field so that all teens feel welcome and able to participate – in the activities, worship, and conversation.

Read the rest of this article 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.

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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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