Small churches: Grow your ministry with young people

Youth Ministry Cohort applications due by July 15 Does your church have an average worship attendance below 150? Do its people have a desire to be in ministry with youth? If so, your church may want to apply for the 2014-2015 Arkansas Conference Small Church Youth Ministry Cohort. Arkansas Conference coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministries Michelle Moore has created a collaboration with the company Ministry Architects to address the youth ministry needs of small churches within our Conference. Funded in part by a grant from the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, the nine-month cohort will guide churches in developing their unique vision and mission for ministry with young people, while also helping each team make a strategic plan for realizing that vision. Participant reviews A pilot group of Arkansas churches spent the past year in the inaugural Small Church Youth Ministry Cohort. Among the participants were Melinda Southerly and Beth Coyle, volunteer youth leaders and family ministry coordinators at Prairie Grove United Methodist Church, where about 40 youth are active in Sunday school, Wednesday night youth gatherings and worship. Southerly describes the youth group there as “incredibly missional,” noting that the students are used to getting out into the community to live their faith. But she and Coyle had no formal training, and found the idea of the cohort appealing. “We were wanting an opportunity to learn how to be the best youth leaders we could be,” Southerly said. Prairie Grove UMC’s team was paired with Stephanie Caro of Ministry Architects as their coach. “She gave us confidence and affirmed things we were doing right, and helped us change in areas we needed to grow and do better,” Coyle said. “We recommend this to anyone who wishes to gain the confidence and knowledge to have a better youth program.” Paris UMC was another participating church in the inaugural cohort. Tina Mosley, a volunteer co-leader of the youth ministry team there, has deep roots in youth ministry—the child of a pastor, she was the president of her District Committee on Youth Ministry as a teen. She has drawn on that background in her role leading youth, but was open to learning more through the cohort. The church’s team prayed together about it and made the commitment to participate. “I thought they were supposed to help us fix things, but [Stephanie] systematically went through everything with us and said, ‘No, you’re doing everything right.’ It gave us enthusiasm for what we do with our kids here in Paris,” Mosley said. She also valued the on-site training, which gave them the opportunity to connect with other churches, discuss common challenges and share successes. “I’ve always appreciated those connections more than book knowledge,” she said. “It is nice to have a program where you get to talk about what’s working or what’s not working.” Mosley added that the process helped her recharge and remember the priorities of ministry. “You can get in the trenches for so long that you forget… the nuts and bolts aren’t what’s important,” she said. “When you go through a cohort like this, you re-focus on what’s important: these kids’ lives.” Deciding to apply Churches selected to participate will be trained in the best practices of ministry with young people, while developing opportunities for sharing in ministry with other churches in their community and district. Churches participating in the Small Church Youth Ministry Cohort must: Form a team of three to five people, including the pastor, a lay leader, the youth ministry leaders, and at least one other person involved in the youth ministry, such as a volunteer or parent. This team will work together to prepare for training days and coaching calls, as well as to develop a vision and plan for ministry. Attend four on-site training days in central Arkansas for instruction and coaching in the best practices of small church youth ministry. Training days will be led by Stephanie Caro of Ministry Architects and Michelle Moore, Youth and Young Adult Ministries coordinator for the Conference. Participate together in coaching calls led by Stephanie Caro of Ministry Architects in each month without an onsite training day. Church teams selected to participate must agree to the following time commitments: Participating in the duration of the program, from September 2014 to May 2015. Reading the four assigned books. Attending the four on-site training days. Setting aside approximately one hour a month, excluding the months that contain an onsite training day, to participate in a coaching call. Meeting as a church team to continue working on a vision and plan for the individual church’s youth ministry. The estimated cost per church for this cohort experience is $1,400, but the majority of the cost will be funded through a grant from the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas. Participating churches will be asked only to pay a total of $300 to participate in the nine-month program, half on Sept. 1 before the cohort begins, and half on May 1 as it comes to an end. Applications are due July 15; all church applicants will know by Aug. 1 if they have been selected for the 2014-2015 cohort. Dates for on-site sessions will be given at that time. To request an application, contact Michelle Moore, Youth and Young Adult Ministries coordinator, at or 501-425-5975.