If I Were a Youth Pastor Again…

I’m still pondering this question of youth ministry especially in light of our calling to live as missionaries in a post-christian setting…

Here’s a typical scenario:

Vanilla Baptist Church has employed me 3 days a week as their youth pastor to ‘oversee their youth ministry’. They are a church with a ‘contemporary’ morning service where around 150 people come to worship. They have a craft group, a men’s ministry, small groups etc etc… you know the place don’t you?

They have said ‘we want you to oversee the youth ministry and grow young people into disciples’. I think that sounds like a pretty good goal, but I’m not sure we are talking about the same end product.

If by disciple they mean a nice, well mannered middle class boy or girl who doesn’t rock the boat, attends church and small group weekly, serves in the church, doesn’t drink, smoke or swear then I’m probably not your man any more.

I hope any disciples that come out of a youth ministry would be well mannered, would be committed to a group of people as their church, but I’d like to shoot for more than a cosmetic behavior change package. I’d like to see some serious change happening in the heart that shows itself in the radical lifestyle Jesus speaks of.

So where would I start…

(Remember I am still ‘thinking out loud’ and this is a relatively unedited spiel!)

* I think getting to know the young people in the church and their families would be a critical place to start. These guys are the ‘missionary team’. They are the people I will be seeking to weld into an effective group, so it makes sense to really get to know them. I’d give a year or so to start that process.

* I’d probably meet with the young people partly in private and partly in the family room of their homes so parents can ‘listen in’ and hear what is in my heart – what I am dreaming of. I sense that if we are going to get parents on board with a missional paradigm of youth ministry rather than a clubby one then they will need to capture the vision and have the opportunity to interact with it.

* I think I’d have a camp/retreat pretty early on to sense the vibe in the group. You can only take people from where they are at. If they are a disconnected, unhealthy group then you would start in a different place than if they were a healthy group. A camp will reveal a lot about a group!

* I think I’d be sharing my own dreams right up front. This is a debatable issue. Do you provide a dream/vision or draw it out of them? I think the answer is both, but my guess is that they would be looking for leadership and wondering what I am on about as a person. I woud share my own sense of calling to be a missionary and then look to see what that sparked in the group. Its here that I believe communication is an essential component of good leadership. Bad communication can see a group saying ‘ho hum… so what?…’ Passionate communication no matter how clumsy may just inspire them to explore some new ideas.

* I wouldn’t dissasemble anything. As tempted as I may be to completely reshape a traditional youth mministry I wouldn’t touch it. In fact I would look to support the leaders as they ran their youth groups, small groups or whatever. There’s plenty of time for reshaping, but to crack the heads of their sacred cows too early would only bring unnneeded tension. This is just one approach. I have a friend who upon entering the church made 40 changes in 40 days. It rocked the boat seriously, many people left, but it set it on a new trajectory. Personally that’s not an approach I prefer as it requires a level of authoritarian leadership that can at times veer into bullying.

* I’d be meeting with the parents as a group and then one to one/two wherever possible. Yes, that’s time consuming and laborious, but, if I have their trust and respect then its like an open cheque book. I’m not concerned to keep their ‘salary paying $$$’ I refered to in my last post, but I am concerned that I have their support because they trust me. I think I’d be pretty up front with them about my core ministry philosophies and values and might discuss some possible implications.

So far I haven’t really ‘done anything’ in terms of developing a ministry have I?… I guess that all depends on how you view ministry.

In a recent newsletter for our backyard missionaries team I mentioned that we as a team are in the foundational stages of our development. If were a house we would be at slab level. The reality is that no one ever looks a concrete slab and says ‘wow nice slab!!’ but exorcism of emily rose the online without a rock solid foundation the rest of the structure is destined for endless problems. It might not fall down, but it will always have cracks and problems.

What come after the slab?…

I might keep writing on this tomorrow.

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