Youth ministry as a social enterprise

I was fascinated to read about Mowtown Teen Lawn Care which was set up as a social enterprise part of a church’s youth ministry.

Matt Overton serves full time as associate pastor of youth and family ministries at Columbia Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, Washington. Mowtown is the business arm of Columbia Teen Enterprises, a new youth ministry and jobs program Overton founded with the help of church members.

The high-school-age crew works on Saturdays, earning fair market wages as part of Mowtown’s business model. But the jobs aren’t separate from the ministry — working for Overton involves much more than earning a few extra bucks raking leaves.

With the blessing of his congregation, Overton hopes to use the landscaping business to reboot the way his church reaches out to Generation Z: youths and young adults born at the turn of the 21st century.

“In youth ministry, we attract kids all the time with Cheetos, couches and games,” he said. “Why not attract them with jobs and work and life skills?”

I think this is a fascinating model for two reasons: firstly intergenerational ministry following the Sticky Faith research is seen to being crucial in the development of a secure faith; but secondly we are seem to be seeing a decline in full-time youth ministry roles, partly due to issues around the long-term financial sustainability of it, this missional entrepreneurship creates an opportunity for a church to develop a model that can help sustain youth ministry.

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