stepping out: a young minister explains his issues with contemporary youth ministry
this morning former lurker rob horton sent me a post that explains his reticence towards contemporary youth ministry. from my perspective, this post is a response to wes' earlier piece and dovetails well with josh brown's exodus series. without further adieu:
I recently stumbled into an on-line conversation regarding "youth ministry". The conversation features those who have chosen to continue to serve within the context of a traditional system. I am not qualified to enter the conversation as one of that status. The conversation has inspired me to share some thoughts from my status, i.e., one who no longer has any desire to participate in a traditional system or even participate in an endeavor to redeem and transform a traditional system. Those who are familiar with my recent thoughts will be aware that I find such systems to be contrary to Jesus and His teachings. I have even gone as far as to categorize such systems as: oxymoronic religion.
I do consider myself to be engaged in youth service, given that I am employed as a Service Coordinator for the Missouri Division of Youth Services, and more importantly I am presently parenting two young males.
It appears to me that many involved in "youth ministry" model their approaches after the conventional approaches to "adult ministry". One component of this approach is designating a manager. The adults have someone they refer to as their "pastor" (Latin for shepherd), thus the youth often have someone they can refer to as their "pastor". The initial visible emergence of the Gathering (Church) of the Lord Jesus featured persons who functioned in a shepherd-teacher capacity, but we have no evidence that this included people owning or belonging to such a person. Actually, the Scripture appears to discourage such a relational dynamic.
God communicates through the Scripture that Jesus is our Shepherd. I imagine that Century One Jesus followers would respond to the question "who is you pastor?" by referring to the Lord Jesus. It appears to me that many in conventional systems would respond to the same question by referring to someone other than Jesus. I believe this is something worthy of reevaluating both in the adult world and the youth world. I would like to suggest that those who care for youth, including myself, would be most helpful by encouraging youth to develop in an intimate union with Jesus as their Pastor/Shepherd.
Another approach that is worthy of reevaluating is the attraction emphasis that has dominated the conventional approach to "ministry". Many resources have been invested in the endeavor of attracting and maintaining system engagement. In the arena of "youth ministry" this has often manifested as an ongoing attempt to attract youth to youth events and programs, and provide effective stimulation to motivate ongoing engagement. I would like to suggest that we begin to provide more assistance in the area of releasing youth to engage their peers within their given environments. I believe this would include encouraging youth to embrace an incarnational emphasis.
When it comes to adults engaging with the Spiritual life of youth, it is essential that we engage them on the grounds of mutuality. Such a ground is rare, if not non-existent, in a conventional system. Young Jesus followers are equally capable of contributing to the emergence and development of the family of God as any adult. Lack of years is not a barrier to Jesus expressing Himself through a person. In some cases adults face a barrier of leaning on their own "aged experience" at the expense of a full "child like" dependence upon God's Spirit. I believe it would be advantageous for those who are engaged in assisting youth in their Spiritual development, that they engage the youth as their equals.
The above are merely some seminal thoughts from someone who has presently "ran away" from the traditional system [see Monty Python's "Search for the Holy Grail" – to catch how I am attempting to communicate the expression of running away].