The Power Of Networking - Reframeyouth

The Power Of Networking

Doing ministry alone was something I never wanted to do when I started almost 22 years ago. I knew that if I wanted to succeed in my work, I would need to learn from those around me. Earlier on, when I began doing youth ministry, I only had seven young people. Instead of attempting to mimic what others were doing at different churches, I gathered my young people and took them to various churches a few weekends a month. We didn’t have the budget to pull off events and activities like other churches with hundreds of students. I also never desired to compete with those types of churches. I took my students so they could experience what we couldn’t do but also have the opportunity to fellowship with other young people in their age group. It would have been a disservice to those students if I hadn’t given them the chance to be in the same environment with other young people worshiping God as they did. I never worried about whether they would leave my church or if another church would attract them away. These fellowships led them to express, “Rev. Brackeen, we want to start our own events where we can lead.”

Visiting other youth ministries was mutually beneficial for me, though. I ended up meeting youth leaders all around the DC Metro area. I listened, watched, and took notes. I learned effective ministry methods while learning from others about what wasn’t working. It also presented opportunities for collaboration. Many of the relationships I formed helped us discover our strengths and weaknesses. Often, I found myself able to partner with colleagues who could bring resources and connections to the table that I didn’t have, and vice versa.

My students and I started a vision called Keep It Real Fridays. It was a version of youth and young adult services we had yet to experience elsewhere in the area. When we began, we only had at most twenty students, but by the third service we put together, we had grown. It wasn’t what I had dreamed of, but God continued emphasizing quality over quantity. I started leveraging the relationships I had built through networking at different events. I ended up hosting other youth ministries and groups, even taking our event to other churches in the area. Over the years, participation grew from twenty to almost three hundred. It was because we weren’t afraid to align ourselves with like-minded churches that wanted to provide students with a worship environment tailored to their age.

Almost twenty years later, I continued my networking practices. I am a lifelong learner and still need to approach youth ministry as if I had just started. Each year, I attend conferences to meet experts in the field, both theologically and practically. Societal issues and trends change constantly, so it’s crucial to maintain a mindset of learning how to adapt and not rely solely on methods that worked years ago. Today, I continue to network and help manage a network of youth leaders in the DC Metro area. It is from the passion from 20 years ago that I want to see my colleagues thrive and succeed. My networks have expanded locally and nationally, and because of my commitment to constant learning, I have befriended some of the most outstanding youth leaders across the country. Now, I get to work across cities and do impactful work that began with me developing authentic community relationships. I never sought fame in youth ministry; I just wanted to be part of a family of individuals who wanted to do ministry well together.



Thomas Brackeen is a servant leader who has over 28 years of experience working with youth and young adults in the DC area through PG Parks and Recreation, coaching in various basketball leagues, and serving at different churches in the DC Metro area. He is also the founder of Keep It Real Fridays, a platform that was designed as a safe space for youth and young adults to express their authentic voice through the creative arts and receive spiritual encouragement. His mission is to empower young people and the leaders who serve them to make an impact in this world.

He is affectionately known to some of his peers as the “Youth Pastors’ Pastor as he has dedicated a portion of his life to mentoring, coaching, and systems thinking for youth and young adult ministry. He fulfills these roles various national youth ministry organizations and through his newly started business TBJ Enterprises, LLC.

Professionally he works in his current role as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lead at The Nature Conservancy, where he has worked for the past ten years. He works in Philanthropy Leadership and across the organization to develop systems thinking and change management strategies. These strategies are focused on hiring & recruiting policies, engaging a diverse nontraditional donor base, discrimination & harassment prevention, and enhancing inclusivity within work culture.

Back to blog

1 comment

Rev Thomas Brakeen jr my Dude For Life you deserve every single honor . Thomas Is the modern day John . Through his example of pouring into the young people and their families for years . To God Be The Glory And Honor!!!!!!! . Thank you my friend , Brother for years of learning from you personally how to!!!! even in the midst of the unknown. Thank You Thank You 🙏!!!!!!!! For allowing me to be apart of your journey and family.

Rev Gary Dion Sampson
The EastFriendship Baptist Church

Rev Gary Dion Sampson

Leave a comment