Response to "The Role of Youth Ministry"
In response to my post on The Role of Youth Ministry, Nate Bostian comments:
In reading this post, it brings up the constant struggle I have with youth ministry, and something needs to be done to address it:
I agree with your 3 aspects / purposes of youth ministry to (a) bring the Gospel to teens; (b) provide tools for growth; (c) facilitate integration into the larger Church… BUT (and this is a big BUT)…
That takes committed, stable, energetic, understanding, reliable volunteers. Lots of them.
One of the reasons I am a youth minister is because I am a very good youth communicator (by His grace, not my ability) and I have a distinct knack for speaking their language at their developmental level. When I teach and discuss, kids listen to me and are interested.
Most adults, even good solid adults who love Jesus, do not have this knack. Most adults are frightened of teens. Most teens are ick of their parents and quite honestly (a) will not come to youth; or (b) will not act like themselves if they come; when their parents come.
If your vision of youth ministry is going to gain ground (and I believe it should), then you are going to have to answer some real basic questions about how to form the spirituality of the entire Church in order to become the type of place where Church-based youth ministry becomes a reality.
For someone with my “skill set” your vision of youth ministry is a bit scary. I am gifted at teaching, counseling, and preaching, in that order. Administration, calling, and riding herd on a bunch of volunteers is not what I do best nor what I enjoy. How does your vision fit with someone like me, who is not so much a team leader as a vision caster?
Indeed these issues are at the very core of this discussion. Let me first say that I do not believe myself to be an expert in any way regarding spiritual formation or youth ministry either one. But I am interested in wrestling with these concepts.
In regards to Nate’s first statement “That takes committed, stable, energetic, understanding, reliable volunteers. Lots of them.” I would say, “Amen!”
Let me qualify that with a confession that I have been struggling here at Skillman for 2 1/2 years to build a strong volunteer base – this has proven to be very difficult for me, and I haven’t yet made nearly the progress I had hoped. I believe strongly in the need for a cadre of committed adults, but I recognize that this is easier said than done.
However, I believe that the difficulty here is actually a symptom of the very issue we are trying to address. I think Nate was hitting on this with his question about, “how to form the spirituality of the entire Church in order to become the type of place where Church-based youth ministry becomes a reality.” The question itself provides what I believe is a key principle for finding the solution – we must approach this with the “entire church” in mind. Youth ministry, as well as all of our ministries, must be seen within the context of whole body by the whole body.
So before we address this question, we should probably back up and just ask “how do we form the spirituality of the entire church?” (I will attempt an initial answer to that in a future post) At Skillman we are in the process of struggling with this type of question and it is overwhelming at times. It is imperative that part of our churches DNA needs to be a basic assumption of community – the sharing of life together. To be formed spiritually as a congregation is a process that will undoubtedly take time. This means that it will require great amounts of patience, humility and prayer on all of our parts.
This leads me to Nate’s final question, “How does your vision fit with someone like me, who is not so much a team leader as a vision caster?” I understand and identify with Nate’s hesitancy here. This could well entail a radical paradigm shift that many of our youth groups, youth pastors and churches as a whole are not ready for. My first response then is, “that’s okay.” It is okay for us to enter this conversation cautiously, make changes slowly and question openly.
If the skill set that Nate describes can become obsolete in a church, then a terrible mistake has been made. There will always be a fundamental need for ministers/pastors with the gift of teaching young people – and there will probably always be a shortage of those individuals in any given congregation. So let’s be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. However, if raising and training leaders (or maybe more likely if maintaining the organizational structure once the volunteers are in) is not your strongsuit, then by all means find someone to partner with you that does that have in their toolbox. (And the chorus of voices again says, “Easier said than done!”)
Shawn Small has often challenged me when I tried to say there isn’t anyone to help with “x or y or z”. I remember well the first time we had this conversation at IHOP and he looked at me and said, “this is a Bret problem, not a Skillman problem. If you feel you don’t have these leaders, then raise them up.” Honestly, I feel like this is a tool that I have and so is communicating with teens. Yet I’m finding that I don’t seem to be well equipped to engage in both activities simulatneously. Because of this I am actively looking for a few people here at Skillman to partner with me in getting these tasks accomplished. Discipleship is something I feel called to, both with adults and teens, but like Nate, I am not an administration guy.
No longer should we approach youth ministry with a single pastor filling all the roles. I recently found a volunteer who is exceptionally gifted at administration and wants to be very involved in the life of the youth ministry. My task is to move over and allow her to utilize her gifts in this ministry so that I can utilize mine and our teens can benefit from both. So Nate, this doesn’t fully answer your question, but perhaps its a start.