This is a topic that has been simmering since a January discussion with one of my dear friends who is a former youth pastor (now senior pastor). We discussed where youth ministry is going and where it has been. We can laugh at videos like the Ignatius YouTube clip or The “5 Rules” video from Jake from SYMC 2010, but there comes a time where we have to stop laughing at ourselves in youth ministry and focus very seriously on the high calling we have received. We have the calling and responsibility to build disciples that make disciples (thanks Dare2Share). We do not have the calling and responsibility to look cool, be good at video games, or anything else that we can easily get hooked into.
Derwin Gray gave the charge today – We will reproduce who we are. Will we be content to reproduce another generation of shallow students that look cool, can answer the right Sunday School Questions, but are devoid of a relationship with the Lover of their Soul – Jesus Christ. Are we using youth pastors without sound Theological and Doctrinal footing to mold the spiritual formation of our students? Are we allowing a generation of youth pastors to feed narcissism and shallow theology into our youth groups where a Holy reverence for God and a humble fear should reign supreme? The answer is not in anything we see as “relevant” today. We have to be irrelevant to this society and point the students to a rugged, nasty, tool of execution used 2000 years ago upon which our Savior died and and then defeated death on the third day. Absolute truth is not relevant. It can’t be. Because absolute truth does not change over the course of time.
How did we get where we are? This pendulum swing disrupting the balance between “In the world but not of it” and “being all things to all people, so that we might win some”. Is it the church’s fault? Maybe the church has shaped a stereotype for youth ministry that is more “baby-sitter” than “youth discipleship and evangelism specialist”. Maybe cash-strapped or overly cash-conscious churches have seen that it is in their best short term interests to hire a Youth Pastor that is Young/Less-Experienced/Doesn’t yet have a family to feed in order to keep staff budgets in check. They may have been willing to accept the results given the budget.
Is it the fault of Experienced Senior Pastors and Youth Pastors that have not stepped up and mentored young Youth Pastors in their area? Maybe they haven’t stepped in to help on the journey to both in Spiritual and Emotional maturity. Did we challenge incomplete and wrong doctrine that was being taught?
What is our perspective?
Pastor Dave made an observation about the age of the pastors at the SYMC conference. I both hope and hope that is not a perspective based in reality. I hope that it is in the fact that Youth Pastors are maturing beyond “Chubbie Bunnies” + “Lockin” + “No trips to hospital” = successful youth event, to teaching sound Theology and Doctrine. I hope it is not reality, because that means that Youth Ministry Professionals and Volunteers are suffering the same fate as the rest of the church at large – Aging. We just started later. This perspective means that there are fewer Youth Pastors available to be prepared, mentored, and turned loose on a generation that looks to be even larger in population than the baby boomers (Yes, Gen Xers, we are outnumbered). I choose to look at his observation as an incomplete picture. I was 26 and had been in ministry five years before I could go to my first Youth Ministry training conference, because I was either in college or working in a bi-vocational role that would not allow the time or funds for a trip like this. I am blessed and thankful to have that privilege now.
I don’t have the answers. Maybe you have some. Share them below…