As a youth pastor, I greatly struggle with the question of how to attract youth and teach them the deeper life of discipleship instead of ending up being little more than an entertainment director. And to be completely honest, I am failing at this more than I am succeeding. It is really difficult to be a youth minister today: to find ways of inviting youth into a life of following Christ in a culture that is so driven by consumption and the satiating of personal wants. I came across this article by Lee Adams that points to the struggle that I, along with many other youth pastors face.
Student ministry is flashing lights, loud music and games that usually involve obscure canned meats or swallowing someone’s pre-used toothpaste, stuff that Shane Claiborne calls “chicken poop for the teenage soul.” Those things attract teenagers, an important aspect of student ministry. Gather youth pastors together and without exception one will ask, “So…What are you running?” Many youth pastors, as they announce their average weekly attendance, look to the left, the universal symbol for, “I’m telling a lie.” Who can blame them? Student ministry is numbers-driven. If you don’t have a large number of students attending, you must be doing something wrong; either that, or the kids don’t think you’re cool. (Listen closely, and you’ll hear the simultaneous thud of youth pastors fainting all over America.) If your ministry isn’t growing, the parents will start clamoring for a new youth pastor, someone more entertaining, someone who doesn’t turn their kids into “radicals,” someone who will teach the kids to be “good boys” and “good girls.”
To read the rest of his reflection, click here.
As I read what he had to say, I thought, “yes!” But for me, there is still a lot of distance between what I want youth ministry to be and what it is. Here at Dunbar, the struggle is trying to build the bridge to get from one model to the other, because right now, the chasm is too wide to simply make a leap.
How have you understood youth ministry? What are your observations about our youth ministry here? And most importantly, what role can you play in helping our youth move towards a deeper life of discipleship?