Deep or shallow…
Where is our focus?
What do we promote?
Are we only allowing our youth the opportunity to dive into a kiddie pool or providing a vast ocean of knowledge and experience in which they can swim? How many youth programs are looking to numbers for reassurance of a job well done?
I say this: Is it a job well done to have hundreds or thousands of youth attending a video game sensory-overload evening IF you do not know their names, family dynamics or favorite anything? The vast majority of church leaders are only seeing the numbers, and then assuming that there must be spiritual growth within their monumentally-sized youth programs.
Mike Yaconelli sums this up the best with a quote from Getting Fired for the Glory of God, “Sadly an increasing number of youth workers have opted for MORE instead of DEEP.” Our goals as youth leaders needs to be something along the lines of this: Becoming present in the lives of the youth who God has placed in our lives. How easy is it to share a meal with them and their families, attend a soccer game, or even allow them to feel important in your eyes beyond the door of the church? We don’t spend time in youth ministry if we are not prepared to make an investment. These are young lives we are talking about.
The worst motto we can attach to youth ministry is this:
If we attempt to meet them where they are, they will come.
The youth we work with don’t need to see all the flash and exuberance that they are bombarded with everyday of their lives because, if they were happy with it, then they wouldn’t be coming out to our programs, especially if they are happy with what they can do at home. The word program doesn’t have to be a bad word when it comes to ministry; we just have to make sure that we do not fall into the trap of making programs all that we have between us and them. These students are not the equivalent of a one-hour television program that we fit is once a week.
They equate to life.
In order for this to work, we need to accept and practice the discipline of presence. From our primary relationships right through to the teenagers in our midst, to the beauty of creation, to God’s presence all around us. Without presence, we might become ignorant to the needs of teenagers. This discipline of presence is the practice of slowing down and, instead of telling our youth what they need, allowing them the time they need to gain trust. Then, they will let us listen to their thoughts, emotions and assumptions of life. If we do not allow ourselves this disciple, it would be easy to become ignorant to the lives of our youth. As youth leaders, we need to be present to our calling, present to Christ in us, and present to teenagers and to Christ in them.
Jesus was pretty lax when it came to discipleship. He hung out with them. When they were at their worst and when they were at their best. He was present. By being present, we will be able to see both sides of their life. He taught truths that they could not grasp at the present time, he avoided crowds (mostly), moved slow and didn’t expect immediate results… so why do we change our view of discipleship?
Are you kneeling in a kiddie pool or taking the more adventurous route of treading in the vast ocean depths of true knowledge and true communion?
Please note that many of the ideas shared here are from Youth Ministry 3.0 by Marko.