Thursday, July 31, 2008

Defying How Youth Ministry Has Always Been Done

Passion is generally a good thing. It enables you to do things 110%, and encourages you to actually want to change things. I am, by nature, a passionate person. In everything I do, I put 110% effort, and my heart and my soul into everything. Whether that's relationships with people, or pointless little every day things (like blogging).
The problem is, I can't turn the passion off. It isn't like there is an on off switch, thus when someone doesn't see my point of view, or try to understand why I am passionate about something, my passion turns into a completely different direction.
For example, I feel like the church over the last 20 years has done a really poor job of raising up mature Christians who actually know what the Bible is talking about, and living a life that actually listens to what Jesus says, mostly because of poor youth ministries. (I say this, because I have heard it come out of the mouth of some pretty big name youth min. people, who have apologized to me and my peers for having to undo, and then redo what they worked so hard to build). This was seen very clearly at a camp I was counseling at one summer.
I love camp. I think camp is a great opportunity for students to escape the rigors and often horrors of everyday life, to focus on their relationship with Jesus and have fun too, however, sometimes the fun can take a turn for the worse. I remember the vision clearly, we were divided into groups to compete all week to win some sort of greatness by being the "best" campers. Thus, when it came to game time, and the students in my group could care less about game time, this youth pastor started freaking out. I literally thought he was going to blow a blood vessel. Screaming and yelling at the kids about how they didn't care, and a bunch of other, quite frankly, crap, about how they should try harder, and how important it is for them to win.
Now, I'm terribly sorry, but I don't remember reading anywhere in scripture about how we as Christians are supposed to strive to win at trivial things like competitions. It does say we are to do our best, don't get my wrong, however, what are we teaching students when we look like the world as we try to push them to be number 1 in the same ways the world does? They get enough of that at home and school. Church's competing against churches, and students put up against each other, not out of fun, but out of a desire to win, seems so contrary to the last shall be first attitude Jesus so often preaches about.
Shouldn't we spend our timing fostering the desire in students to care for others? To spend our time teaching them, that it is ok to fail at things in this world. That God loves them regardless of whether they win or lose at a stupid game of dodge ball. That the last truly do go first in the kingdom, and we should put others above ourselves.
I wonder sometimes if it's not this cut throat attitude that in part has turned an entire generation of just out of high school students away from the church. If they can't just be themselves in the church, whether they are athletic or not, whether they care about embarrassing games or not, why would they want to be their? They get enough of that out in the world.
And that's where my passion comes out. My passion for students to truly become 100% radical followers of Jesus, to live how he says to live, to be who he calls us to be. Sometimes I think that's chucking big games and competitions out the window. I sometimes think that's chucking out cookie cutter youth ministry out the window. Honestly, I think it's chucking big events out the window sometime, and just doing what Jesus did. Loving students, healing their wounds, being there for them, and teach them the gospel truth. There is a time and place for everything, but I'm wondering if what we as youth pastors try to push on our kids so often (be more busy, add more things to your schedule, pay money for this event, compete, be the best, win this game) is more what we want for them, then what they need.
After all, it is a whole lot easier to plan a big event, then it is to be there week after week with a student you think may never change.
And that's when my feelings get hurt, and I quite frankly get angry... because I start to wonder if my calling to reform the church and call it back to what it should be is pointless, when my philosophy is to turn the other cheek, and so much of the message I hear is go out and get ahead, whatever it takes.
Sometimes I just wish I could turn the passion off. It would make things so much easier sometimes.

1 comment:

Dawn said...

That's great - thanks for letting me know where you are.

This was a powerful post - and blogging has become so important to me in terms of the wonderful godly people I've met out there - they literally prayed my preemie twin babies into healthy birth! Seriously.

I wish there were more youth pastors with your passion - we had one in our church for years. She's still in our church, but graduated from youth ministry when she felt she needed a change (she's beyond youth age by quite a ways). But the point I'm trying to make is that my kids both missed having her - my son (the story on my sidebar) was totally wrecked by something that happened with a youth pastor and his wife. It's easy to try to have someone to blame for the downward turn he took, but it's true that it had a huge part in his turning away from what he'd been taught.

My brother, who works at NNU, says he's watched a whole generation of college kids come who want to be youth pastors, and that there's a dearth of those who strive to be senior pastors - mostly because the youth have been with each other and their youth pastor to the exclusion of getting to know the rest of the church and the senior pastor.

I so agree with you on big events. When we were teens, granted a century ago and in a small church, we planned our own lessons and presented them, planned and decorated for and did the programs for our own events. It was such a learning time - and why I'm not afraid of speaking in front of a crowd, etc. Real leadership happened there in that small church.

Well, I didn't mean to get on my soapbox - can you see I'm a bit passionate about some things, too??

Maybe we'll meet someday at a district function - were you at assembly a couple of weeks ago?