Have you ever had a bumper group come through your youth ministry? I mean a group that is firing on all cylinders. This group volunteers for everything, invite their friends, engage in worship, pray regularly, take an active interest in the youth ministry and everything is going very well. These can be the golden years or dream years for the youth ministry. You seem to connect with this group, you make friends more easily and they really seem to understand you. In simple terms a cohort is a group like this that moves through your ministry in a group, they join and leave together.
Leading this cohort in youth ministry is what we dream of, it makes it worthwhile. But the trap is that this group grows up and moves out of your ministry into the next group, which you don’t lead. Perhaps you have never seen this happen, maybe you have. In the youth group that I attended, the dream cohort were finishing up just as I joined. It seemed that just after I joined everyone got too old for the group and left, leaving all of us a little deflated. In fact these dream cohorts can create such a bubble in a group that when it bursts, they all leave, the group can’t go on.
Recently I put this question to Tim Hawkins from St Paul’s at Castle Hill. Whilst Tim has been in Youth Ministry for a long time, he has led cohorts through St Paul’s for 18 years, so I thought he would have experience in this area. Well Tim’s advice was really really simple. He said:
“You gotta keep thinking of who is coming next”
Sounds so simple that everyone would do it. But here are several practical tips that Tim mentioned:
- People in Children’s ministry should keep an eye on birth announcements, these are the couples who will be bringing their kids to children’s ministry in a year or two.
- People in Junior high ministry should be looking at the years 4,5,6 who are getting bored in the children’s ministry and are ready to move on.
- People in Senior high ministry should be looking for the next Senior who can learn to lead at their youth ministry nights and be trained to run small groups.
Whilst we are all tempted to look for a complex plan, it seems from Tim Hawkins that it is as simple and as complex as keeping ahead of the game. It might be hard and repetitive work but the alternative is having to rebuild your ministry from scratch every time a dream cohort leaves. So who is coming next in your ministry? Do you need to start recruiting for the ministry below you in the age cycle so you have a pipeline coming into your ministry?
What are your youth ministry tips for avoiding “Cohortism”?