Nudging A Group’s Culture: Part 2

Last week we began by recognizing that the culture of a student ministry can determine its future trajectory, the group’s influence on the community, and gives people a taste of Jesus. Also, we discussed the importance of creating a Ministry Culture document and how it will help you learn about your group’s current dynamics. (Click here read Nudging A Groups Culture Part 1).

The first nudge that can help us push a group in the right direction is in Matthew 15:1-3.

“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (NIV)

During this encounter, Jesus is confronting many things- one of these things is the tradition that the Pharisees followed over many years. You see, they had let many things influence their customs. The least of which, as called out by Jesus, is the command of God found in Scripture. I wonder, have we done the same thing in student ministry? Do we know why we play that game? Why do we have small groups, or why do we not have small groups? Why do we use a dinosaur for your collection plate? Where and why do we have that weird painting on the wall? Why do we have the lock-in and what activities do we have at your lock-in?

Often we end up with a culture in the student ministry that just happened. We allow things to begin because we are busy or because we didn’t think through what we were attempting. Our groups develop, and we do not always give it much thought. At times this is acceptable, I mean happy accidents can happen (Thank you, Bob Ross!)

I would challenge though that we, as youth workers need to give more thought to the traditions that develop in our groups. We cannot be a people of, “this is how it has always been.” Are your traditions founded on Scripture and your theology?

The Pharisees would have done well to consider more carefully their theology. As youth workers, we would also benefit from further reflection. Reflection upon Scripture and theology is the first real nudge that would be a great benefit to the culture of your group. Look at your Ministry Culture document and ask yourself, how does the content of this document speak to our beliefs about God?

For my context, in a Wesleyan Holiness context, we give considerable weight to the way we understand God’s grace. For instance, we believe in God’s prevenient grace (God’s grace given to those who do not yet know Him). So we ask ourselves when a student enters our youth room how we can express this form of grace to each student. Our theology, formed from Scripture, is teaching us about the environment we need to create in the student ministry. Everything about our group should be understood by how it helps or hinders our message that we hope to express to students.

The first nudge to creating the right culture for your group is this, allow your theology and Scripture to play a significant role in shaping everything you do as a group. They should form your traditions, actions, words, decorations, games, events, everything.

Begin with your next event or ministry season. Be intentional about allowing your congregation’s beliefs to bring life to a few things in your future. I believe you will begin to see your message more clearly communicated to your students without the use of words.

May we use the nudge of theology and Scripture to move our groups closer to Jesus.


*For my Wesleyan friends, I strongly encourage you to read Jeremy Steele’s book Reclaiming The Lost Soul of Youth Ministry. The early chapters of this book do a great job of helping us consider theology and the influence it should have on student ministry.

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