If I Were a Youth Pastor Again – Part III

Ok, still mulling this around.

Vanilla Baptist is a church with a fairly stock standard approach to mission and ministry. It revolves largely around getting people to attend the Sunday morning service. The more there, the better we are doing – the fewer there the worse we are doing. While this sound like a crass oversimplification this is the mindset most people are operating on.

Where does a youth pastor start whose goal is to equip young people to be disciples (and by implication missionaries) in their own context?

A few quick thoughts on how we can influence young people and churches and areas we would need to consider:

Preach It?… – Ask me a few years back and I would have said ‘preach it!’ This is based on an interesting asumption that people listen to preaching and are changed by it. Some are… but… many fall asleep even during the most compelling speaker’s presentations. Speaking about it would definitely be a part of the process – a public platform with a fairly captive audience is a nice thing. BUT let’s just not overrate its power. After 3 years of preachng the same stuff at my previous church, with people nodding, saying ‘yeh yeh’ the actual transformation of culture was fairly minimal. I put a lot of eggs in the preaching basket and I don’t believe it paid off.

Living It – There is absolutely no question that the most powerful way to influence people in my opinion is to do what you speak about. No action = no credibility. There are way too many people who like to talk and too few who like to get on with it. By doing it people will both have a working model and will listen when you speak.

Yeast – To borrow from Jesus analogy, yeast is a powerful substance despite its relatively small size. I like the idea of developing a small team of people who I will spend a lot of time with and will invest heavily into. A small group of people can significantly impact a large group if they capture a vision and follow it. I’d be spending my first year finding the people who will be the key players for the 5 years after that and spending large chunks of time with them talking about the core issues of discipleship and mission.

Exposure – So often we don’t know what we don’t know because we have only lived in a very small world. The most transformative experiences for me have been when I have gone to settings where I have been unfamiliar and had to process new information. I’d be taking this small group and any other takers to events and activities where their thinking will be challenged and reshaped. If I were a youth pastor now I’d be tapping into the Forge intensives and using them as food for discussion. I’d be trying to get a few parents along as well.

Programs – I said before I don’t think I’d (personally) change anything immediately. I’d be inclined to keep the ship sailing a fairly safe course on the surface, while talking with the crew below deck about navigating a new course. If the time spent in close contact and in exposure to new thinking doesn’t catalyse thinking about ‘why we do what we do’ then I’d be very surprised. If it came to the point of closing some programs or starting some new more effective ones then I’d like to do that because the initiative has come from the young people. Again I’d like to do all this in consultation with parents – not as permission givers – but by way of keeping them informed of developments. Parents don’t handle surprises well (‘Mum – there’s no evening service as of next week’ – ‘What?!’) so by keeping them in the loop we do in sense have their permission anyway.

Structure – I am strong believer that any functioning living organism has a healthy structure. I’d be looking at the structure of the youth ministry and asking ‘where is it healthy and where is it sick?’ I’d be looking to develop a strong yet flexible structure that would help us do what we want to do without binding us up in meeting mania. I believe people need to know that there is a sense of order to what is happening if they are to believe in it.

In many ways it is plotting a course for change but in a way that has people thinking they dreamt it up themselves and as such own it more strongly.

I’m not sure if I’m out of steam on this one yet – we’ll see!download monsters inc free

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