Cooperative Youth Ministry

This weekend my congregation participated in a Confirmation Ministry retreat with two other congregations (the two other congregations are both about three miles from my congregation, and about five miles from each other – we're all very close!).  Combined we had 15 children and four adults (three of whom are pastors) on the trip.  Bringing three small groups together to form a larger group was a great experience – in fact, by the end of the weekend it was hard to tell which kids were from which churches, for they were mixing and mingling together so well!

The pastors wondered out loud if we should consider having a cooperative youth ministry for the next program year (ie, school year).  Working independently we each have some struggles with gaining a "critical mass" of kids for events or activities … but by joining together we increase the numbers of both kids and adults, we share planning responsibilities, and gain from the insights, traditions, youth, and leaders of each congregation.  It seems like a win-win-win situation.

We're taking this idea back to our congregations to gain some feedback, and we plan to meet in a few months to look a little deeper at what a three-congregation cooperative youth ministry might look like.

I'd welcome any insight from youth, youth workers, or pastors who have been or are currently part of a multi-congregation cooperative youth ministry.  Surely this kind of a ministry has all kinds of potential pitfalls – how well do the leaders communicate?  How compatible are the traditions, pieties, and theologies of each congregation?  How do the different school schedules impact youth ministry event scheduling?  How does a multi-congregation cooperative youth ministry nurture the relationship that youth have with their home congregation?

Surely many questions and challenges await us in the coming months and years … yet I feel that there are numerous opportunities and blessings just waiting to be claimed.  I truly believe that this weekend was not simply a wonderful one-time event, but the beginning to a shared ministry that will nurture the faith of our young people and open our congregations to the gifts and joys of ministry with youth and families.

Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

4 thoughts on “Cooperative Youth Ministry

  1. This was a blessing for those of us in my three Texas congregations. We really didn’t have enough in one of my congregations for youth to gather. So all our confirmation programming was done together. We would have had youth ministry together, but the youth who were at the one congregation when I was there were so involved in their family ranch and the rodeo circuit that they didn’t have time.

  2. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Livonia, MI partners with several other ELCA congregations in the Western Wayne County Cluster – Most of the congregations are in Livonia. These congregations have come together for some cooperative events and ongoing adult faith formation. From the UPLIFT (United Partnership of Lutherans In Fellowship Together) group came a cooperative high school youth ministry program called LYTE (Livonia Youth Together Energized. Two congregations share a paid Youth ministry leader, the remaining congregations have adult volunteers who meet and plan events for our youth. They have a facebook group – called UPLIFT LYTE and you can read more about the group at
    We also partner with other Livonia congregations for Confirmation Camp.

  3. I think this is the best road forward for congregations like mine in Havertown. In the five years I’ve been around the typical makeup of youth in our congregation is about 6-8 high school aged youth that go to 5-6 different school districts. Layer on top of that that only about 2 of them have been active in the congregation at any given time. We’ve had a good experience sharing confirmation with a nearby Presbyterian Church. I’ve felt it important to supplement it with some intentional study of the Lutheran catechism, but the cooperative sessions have provided a better opportunity to discuss the differing traditions simply because they are both there side-by-side. Much fuller dialogue.
    There is a now a fledgling effort to start a community youth group behind the leadership of a youth worker hired by a nearby UMC congregation. I’m hopeful it will allow for some meaningful events with enough youth to make it comfortable. I think it will be good that there is one congregation that has provided leadership, to keep things in motion. The question will become how the other congregations (like mine) will connect with the youth worker and, in turn, provide support to the ministry in a way that will lead to ownership.

  4. I applaud your thinking outside the box. Around here we are finding that many churches are in similar situations. Combining resources is often the way to go. Because of this we are looking at forming a community wide youth ministry program around here. We had a full head of steam earlier last year but things cool off late last year. We are in the process of restarting discussions with the hope of being off and running by the fall.
    I look forward to hearing more about your efforts and hopefully I will have more to write about mine. God bless.

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