Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Convictions about Youth Ministry --Part 1

As a "former" youth pastor who now travels full time. I'm often introduced as the guy "with a list of past achievements."
Growing a youth group from 30 to 300.
Transforming a youth group.
Leading through change in a youth group.
Developing small groups.
Bla bla bla.....

Honestly, I'd like to be known for what I'm "about" to do, rather than what I "have" done because the future is where it's at. Life, ministry, churches, youth groups change so fast. I want to be one of those guys who's pushing the envelope to reach and minister where teens are at now as well as where they are going.

With that in mind, I'd like to submit to you some of my core convictions and values about youth ministry. These are not a 10 step "how to process" or even the top "methods" to grow your group. I'd be a fool to suggest such a thing, because like I said before, "ministry is always changing" and methods for that matter.
You may read these next few post and hear nothing more than an old guy who has done more things wrong than right, and you'd be correct.
But hopefully some of these core values I have concerning youth ministry will be an equipping tool for your ministry too. Enjoy

Value #1: God is in control, we are not. Sounds like a "no responsibility" free card, but it's not. In fact, it puts so much more responsibility on the leader. One of the mistakes that I've made before (that many youth pastors make) is we either don't plan far enough in advance OR we plan too much and THEN ask God to bless it. It's far more important to seek Him first and jump on what He is already blessing than to invite Him along for the ride. With this value it's important to add that tucked away in the spaces of this truth is another key principle that Jesus teaching regarding "being faithful with little, will be made ruler over much." I wholehearted believe that when we are faithful (responsible) for those he has given us, then He will add an increase.
Be honest, you and me and the rest of the world was put out with "OctoMom" because she wasn't taking care of the children she already had and now she adds eight more to the mix. How much more is our Heavenly Father wanting us to take care of who we have before He adds more to us?
We should be strategic and plan, but never at the expense of getting a clear word of direction from the One who is in control.

Value #2: Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.
Thank goodness that we've had a wave of "excellence" pass in the church. I mean really, we are starting to see some quality and well done ministry in our churches. Of course there is the random "cheesy church marque" that still pokes it's head up, but overall I see churches doing things right. As they should.
However it's not the most important thing. Somehow we've lost the urgency to do the right thing.
Youth pastors quit over a disagreement with the pastor.
Programs become more important than people.
Upholding policies take precedence over situational needs.
Gray areas become easily justified when personally wronged.
One of the many things I've learned since being out of "full time" youth ministry is this; "teens don't remember what you say as much as they remember what you did." If you haven't put guard rails and people in your life to question your motives and ask you the tough questions about why you do what you do, (and I mean lots of different people, not just a few "yes" friends) then the sad truth is your character is already slipping and you're not even aware of it.

Value #3: It takes adults to make your youth ministry survive, it takes ministers to make it thrive.
Any youth ministry that does not have an abundance of adult workers will not go the distance. I don't think there is a magic ratio of how many to have, but I'd say, "the more the better!" You may think teens hate being around adults (or even vice-versa) but the truth is, having loving, committed adults in your youth ministry is what will cause it to continue to grow for the long haul.
It takes ministers to thrive simply means, "don't fall into the buddy system." It's easy for youth pastors and adult workers to want to be everyone's "buddy" but when it comes time to speak into a teen's life, they need to hear it from someone they respect and value; who they know has their spiritual welfare as their concern. It's not to say we are Bible scholars or have been to seminary or have the proper paperwork, it simply means we need to act and hold ourselves in a manner that in honorable to the Gospel. We are all called as ministers of the gospel first, leaders next, and then friend. Many young guys in ministry operate with a "Norm" mindset and want everybody to know their name; while this might work for a while, in the long run it will devastate your impact.

Hope you enjoyed these three convictions of mine concerning youth ministry, I'll post the next three tomorrow.

Yours for His Kingdom,

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