12 Contemporary Proverbs for Youth Ministry

Recently I have been involved in a couple of situations where I have reflected on the Psalms, the book in the Bible made up of lots of poetry, reflecting the situation people like David faced in his life, and as part of the exercise I have re written one to reflect the ongoing situation, It was a good exercise, full of meaning, and has been done many times before. However, where a psalm is poetic, devotional and emotional, the book of proverbs reads almost like a series of tweets from the wisest of Kings King Solomon. There’s 31 chapters of them, one per month, its not a bad thing to read them occasionally. But it got me thinking, as I am often accused of writing too much, making my thinking too inaccessible, after all no one has time to read 1000 words of insight or thinking on youth work, mission or the church, so, just this once, I am going to provide 10 easy tweetable mantras, or Proverbs that I have picked up from recent reading or training on Youth ministry – when i say recent reading, what i mean is that i read it recently..


  1. Young People are more likely to invest in their faith, when a church invests in its youth provision’ (Christian Smith, 2005)

  2. Planning without Young People, is likely to result in planning to have no young people (that one is mine)

  3. Agree that our young people are ‘at promise’, not ‘at risk’, and do whatever we can to help them realise that promise’ (Cormac Russell from http://www.nurturedevelopment.org/blog/taking-strengths-based-approach-young-people-moving-risk-promise-part-1/)

  4. Helping young people love their world might enable them to also love the church.

  5. If young people dont have any kind of dream , I am sure it is impossible for them to create something (Freire, 1970)

  6. In order to be and grow church we need to see church as both the journey we are on and the destination we are heading to’ (Passmore, 2013)

  7. Young people are not merely tellers of the old story, but dwellers of it and performers of it  (adapted from Vanhoozer, 2014)

  8. Helping young people experience God in their lives might be more helpful than teaching them about God in a God slot. A boring God slot might engender a boring faith? (for alternatives to ‘the God slot see my previous post here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-NG)

  9. Regard young people as the saints of the present church, not just the church of the future, Or alternatively – To get the kind of disciples that create new churches we must train them like Jesus did. 

  10. If a church helps young people become creators and not just learners , it might enable them to decide not become leavers (Nick Shepherd, Faith Generation, 2016)

  11. Failure isnt an option, its an inevitability, so might as well take risks and enable young people to be challenged – better to aim high and fail than not try at all?

  12. We might need to earn the right to explore faith with young people, not just think we’ve earned the right (adopted from my tutor Ken Wilson at ICC)

So here are my 12 Proverbs that might be useful for us all in the task and vocation of Youth Ministry, of developing the current saints of the church in the task of risky, sacrificial discipleship, that might transform the world, one young person and youth group at a time.   What might yours be?


Author: James

Currently I work part time for both Frontier Youth Trust (www.fyt.org.uk) and Communities Together Durham (www.communitiestogetherdurham.org) , though this blog is my own personal views. I am also self employed and do various aspects of youthwork consultancy, including training, writing, lecturing, seminars and written pieces, including organisational consultancy, community profiling and detached/youthwork training. Please do get in touch if I can be of help to you in your church, project or organisation to develop your youth and community work. I have contributed to 'Here be Dragons (2013), and two recent articles in the youth and theology journal and 'ANVIL' the CMS online journal. My recent employment includes, working for FYT as a youthwork development adviser, being the centre director at Durham YFC, and before this I was known as 'Mr Sidewalk' as I was the project coordinator for the Sidewalk Project in Perth, where I facilitated the delivery of 5 years of detached youthwork on the streets, schools and communities to engage with young people , and support through alcohol misuse issues. In 2017 I completed an MA in Theology & Ministry at St John's College, Durham, and in 2008 graduated from ICC (now NTC Glasgow) with an honours degree in youth work with Applied theology.

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