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Jay Huff
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Monday, March 31, 2003

Speaking of big dreams...
I've got a real big one that's going to appear in the next Youthworker. It's a Global View article on what evangelicals can do to help Mexico. Not what you'd think. I end up talking about macro-economics and the Flat Tax - yes, THAT Flat Tax. Unorthodox. But Will is willing to run it (pun intended). I'm headed over to the Emergent Village bulletin boards to start up a discussion thread on Economics and the Emerging Church.
"A land of milk and coffee..."
Did you mean to write that, Riddle? Thought it was land of milk and honey. How about Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea? Or Chimichangas and Double-Doubles?
REconstruction followed by a plea to Youth Pastors:
I'm with Tony J. on his comment with deconstruction. I told several of you not to deconstruct too much here.. but feel free to do so as we move forward. I recant.

I will say this about reconstruction. You will always be a slave to the system you are apart of. If you are apart of a denomination you all ways be thinking about how to rethink it within your current situation. If you are within a church that is program driven, you will wnat to rethink it with in the context of programs. Allowing your immediate environment to dicate what you can or cannot do is a fatal flaw of reimagining youth ministry. Don't start with your current situation. To do so is to make far to many concessions up front. Imagination is stunted. Look beyond your current situation and local church environment to start, Imagination will help you dream new things.
For example. A PCUSA church I worked with in Tulsa for a while would discuss what God had in store for them as a church. They would dream a while (just getting started with imagination). they would feel God was in the dream, that he was leading them that direction. BUT. They would look at the present situation and the dreaming would stop. They would say. Our constitution will not allow us to do this. Which cuts the throat of imagination and dreams.
Youth pastors. Our churches are like the Israelites in Egypt. They don't know anything outside of slavery to a bad system. A land of milk and coffee is beyond their imagination. Bad routines, bad assumptions, shortsightedness are all limits to realizing a land beyond the current situation and environment.
Youth pastors! God is calling some of you to dream of a church beyond "youth ministry". To dream it you must allow yourself to be ruined.You must allow yourself to dream beyond the confines of the norms in your current context. Is there danger? yes. The likelyhood of you dreaming of a ministry with students that does not fit your current situation is high! Frankly. Very high. But there are churches out there. They need a prophet/leader to take them beyond what they know.

Will you do it?

When God dreams about his church in your community.. what does he dream about? What does it look like? We cannot rethink youth ministry without rethinking our understanding of the church.

Does any of this make sense?

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Using one's imagination is the way to go. Now to re-imagine youth ministry is to start from scratch. Don't have anything. Build from there. Have the unlimited resources; have the facility - heck don't even have a facility. Go to where the youth are. Have a mall ministry ....own the mall the mall; see the mall;... Heck get rid of titles; get rid of churchie words ..I mean do youth really need to know the transformation of transedence of the work of the Holy Spirit in eschatology?

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Business stuff and Imagination:Some stuff on a message board. Perhaps Rudy can give some insight on this also.
Where a message board lends itself to a conversation.
A blog is a bit to linear for a most conversations.
Here is what I suggest.
Post your thoughts on what it means to rethink ym.
stretch others. stretch yourself.
ask your questions.
confess your shortcomings.
Sure respond/react to things that are posted here. but not as much as a conversation... more of an expression of your imagination expanding us! If you want to have a conversation about it on a messageboard or a post on this blog spurs a conversation then go to and have it there. I'm sure they won't mind.
Anything goes. But. What I'm not really looking for in here is simply rearranging the furniture in the next great youth room.
When allowing God to dream big dreams in us, imagination is the way God helps us get past our assumptions and misunderstandings about what life is about... and youth ministry too. A great book to read might be the Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggeman on this subject.
Here are some words that make me cringe. While I understand that our use, definitions, and context for the words we use are not transferrable, the following words bother me when I see them. This list is not complete, and I am not asking anyone to avoid them. However, this may give some clues to my approach to re-imagining youth ministry:
"blank" ministry
"blank" pastor

I will post words that make me smile later.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Just a brief departure from the various topics under discussion - I wanted to share with this group the greatest title for a youth group talk I've ever heard. Phil Jackson of Bringin Da Funk ministries came up with "How to answer a booty call." For the urban un-initiated, the talk was about how to resist sexual peer pressure. He's got more dramatic titles where that came from.

Another Waterbrain moment...

Thursday, March 27, 2003

That is my impression also John. I feel there is alot of us heading that way from what I have read so far.........
John sounds like you want more of a Family based Youth Ministry than anything ...

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Greetings All!
I'm a bit behind in the game, I've been on vacation. I'll take some time and read the previous posts to get up to speed. For now an introduction:

My name is Aaron Klinefelter. Let's see... what to tell you about me... I'm a husband and expectant father (November). I'm endeavoring to minister in this emerging postmodern context. I'm not satisfied with the ministry that has been attempted by the churches of which I've been a part. I'm presently a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena (hey Rudy we should hook up!) studying in the School of World Mission (concentrating on Contemporary Culture and Worship). Since January I've been working 12 hours a week at an Episcopal church doing youth ministry. Prior to coming to seminary I worked full-time for four years at a church in Hamilton, Ohio doing youth ministry and Christian education.

I'm really frustrated with what I've been taught about a "good" youth ministry. I'm not even sure I believe in "youth" ministry anymore! I'm looking forward to some good dialogue about our present situation as ministers to youth and about a new direction(s) for youth ministry.
Real quick note (I'm traveling without a good internet connection): If I quitworking with the youth, we would just continue with age group bible classes and most of the kids would drift away over time. 2 reasons: 1) there is no parent involvement for most of them. and 2) most of our congregation are not comfortabel with kids and see them as a separate (and not quite "saved") group. The second reason, i believe is rampant in the church today.

I want to see a way or ways to create a real community where kids, children, parents, old people join together in growing, following God, and worshipping God. where everyones relationship with God can be used to lead others closer in their relationships.

Not sure this makes sense, but I'll leave it and try and recover it later (or let the group make sense of it).
I think on key is what Dan Kimball has been saying in his book the Emerging Church and might fit into this conversation.

There is no single model for the emerging church
The emerging church is more of a mindset than a model
The emerging church measures success missionally (pg. 14 - 15)

And 2 quotes from Mark Oestreicher (pg. 32,33)

"Extracting a ministry model from one church and injecting it into another without thought of context is one of the primary
flaws in ministry practice today"

"Good Warning, any program or paradigm or model or system that purports to be timeless - or for that matter
'guaranteed to work' is to be avoided at all costs" So when one says I'd like to see a Biblical model? What am I thinking? I think
And what the heck is that? I mean there are many models and trends and even ways to do youth ministry ..but why just be
youth? Why not minister to the church?

I like this quote from Kimball again "The modern church has been criticized for bragging (Or being ashamed) when we count the
three Bs (Buildings, budgets and bodies) for directly or indirectly measuring our success using these criteria alone" pg. 15

And again a quote by Mark O. (pg. 33)

"Contrary to much of our current thinking about the importance of powerful youth ministries to the lifelong spiritual development
of future adults, research proves otherwise: a teenager who attends a church's worship service on a regular basis and does not
attend youth group is more likely to continue to attend church worship services as an adult than a teen who is active in youth
group but doesn't attend worship services with other age groups."

So now that we are re-imaging youth ministry. What does it look like? Are the above quotes correct?

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Laying the Foundation
I am with you Mark... but let's start defining things then. What is it that you see differently in ministering "to" students and families and "with" students and families? What does that look like? Does that mean cancelling everything that is in place? And how about those of us in denominations? Change will have to be a gradual one and something that pretty much flies under the radar for the "traditionalist" (for lack of a better word). That was a barrage of questions, but I see myself as a reformer within the current system, even if the change is going to be slight. I can see how what you laid out will work in a newly formed church, but in established ones... that is where the work is going to be ssssllllloooowwww.
Good thoughts and questions.
Is there ANY verse you can show me that says we should seperate students from adults the way many of us do for our youth ministries?
Where did we get the idea that the church is about programs of any kind?

I may be starting in a different place than some here. I'm willing to dialogue it, but I'm ready to build something here.
Here's some foundational thoughts about what ministry with students will look like.
1. It won't be called youth ministry.
2. There will not be a youth pastor. There may be a pastor who spends a majority of his/her time with families with teens, who enjoys the company of students. This pastor will minister less "to students and families" and more "with students and families"
3. Primary spiritual nurture will happen within communities of various age people and/or by parents.
4. Programs will become utterly irrelevant and unneccesary. (this is not an overstatement) The adolescent of tomorrow will ask "What's sunday school?" "What's a youth group?" "What's a youth pastor?" "Those sound like silly terms"
5. The greater church would teach adolescent's what it means to be a man/ woman by living it out with them, not teaching it to them, or hiring a mercenary pastor with mercenary volunteers to make attempts.
6. Adolescent's will sharpen the faith of the older community of the church.

I think that would be a good start.
Frankly to start anywhere else may to more harm than good.
I think if I cancelled youth for 6 months that they, the church, would stroke. They see it now as something they are proud of, but with the things that I have in place, ministry with youth would still take place. It is the "older" folks that see just the program side as a positive.

My big question for youth ministry is why the church feels that numbers equals success. I have had numbers and those are the times that I have see the least amount of ministry taking place. I think the answer for me is going to the smaller church and impacting a few youth and intergrating them into the church ministries at large.
Why are buildings more important than ministries? A quick story... my pastor was taking a group of seniors on a retreat and it was mentioned that the youth fellowship hall was a wreck when we were having an overnight event. They came through in the morning and kids were laying on the floor eating breakfast, some watching a video, etc. etc... yeah it was a wreck. Well much to the credit of my pastor, she turned around and stated, that she would rather know that these youth were here experiencing community with each other and growing in their faith than knowing that they can clean up after themselves. That is why we pay people to clean up.
I was pretty pumped- actually we always clean up before we leave, but that isn't the point. I would love to have an event that these "senior" adults and youth are all laying around making a mess together. Now that would be cool!
So many good points have been brought up and I find myself asking the same questions. I have found at my church that the Elders are lazy and want someone else to come up with the programs. (I don't mean that as mean but by their actions it would be the truth) This can be found by what has happened with our youth. It was built around one guy and now that he is gone it is falling apart. The programs are gone so the youth went with them. I don't have to ask the question I can see some of the results if we aren't doing things from God's perspective. But we have been left with the same questions that ya'll have brought up. I want to keep myself and "our" ministry centered on Biblical truth. Plowing this feild has become confusing. Maybe that is where God wants us. For too long maybe we thought we had all the answers (do this program, do this structure,ect) and now we are finding ourselves having to rely on God more for the answers to our questions. Just thoughts......
The response would vary on canceling unless you gave the reason behind it. I've been working on the ground up.

Big questions - How to minister to the Emerging Church? And how to be the church rather than a youth group.

And is there a Biblical model to ministry? I think the message doesn't change but the methods do.
I agree with you, Rand. Programs aren't necessarily the enemy. It's when we get lazy and stop at the program that we have problems. The program can be a vehicle to get us where God wants us. But I find that a lot of times I am satisfied having a clean, shiny, cool vehicle. We ran through the "I'm done with entertaining students. We are going to be a Purpose Driven Student Ministry." But we simply traded one program for another, one pre-packaged approach to the real deal for another. We have been largely unsuccessful at 1Thessalonians 2:8 (We loved you so much that we gave you not only God's Good News but our own lives, too.), which is one of the pillars I thought we were trying to build on here. And to be honest, it has started with me. And I'm not feeling real good about me right now. Disappointed, really.

To answer the questions:
1. I don't think that there would be too much rumbling, if I provided good reasons for cancellations.
2. I don't doubt that the purpose driven approach to ministry as a philosophy works. I just want to see me, my team, and our students get a firm grasp on the basics, and see God move in our town.
a. How do you/Are you able to pass on passion for God to the next generation?
b. How do you develop leaders, not just students who know the right answers?
c. Is the question: "Why isn't what we're doing working?" even the right question? Is it a matter of timing, hoding the course, doing more/different...Are we asking the right questions of ourselves. (You may not be able to answer this for us...)
My 2c...
We are certainly a diverse group - my fear is that I might be the old-fashioned one... I agree wholeheartedly that when programs become an end in themselves as opposed to being a means to an end, we've got problems. However, I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. In my 5+ years of ministry I have seen plenty of ministry happen within programs, as well as a lot of good ministry outside of programs. Let me weigh in on the poll questions:
Part 1:
Actually, I think the church would give me the benefit of the doubt if I cancelled programs for 6 months. There are those WITHIN the youth ministry at the church who would not be very understanding.
Part 2:
My biggest question about rethinking youth ministry is this: How can we stop trying to 'figure out' the next new paradigm and just simplify to a Biblical model of ministry?

Monday, March 24, 2003

Welcome gang.
There are some diverse folks in the room and a few more will be joining us from time to time.
To paraphrase Dan Kimball (he's in this room here somewhere) "It doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that we should go to church" That we are called to be the church. To live lives as an extension of Christ's body. Theologically most churches would say that this is proper doctrine. We are the Church. The Church is not the building. However far too many churches lives double lives. In fact. As Tony alluded to a bit ago. Youth ministry in a vast majority of churches is inextricably connected to programs. In my opinion programs should only exist as ways of building up local community. But churches have camped out in programs. Youth minstry = programs in many congregation's eyes.

Quick poll:
If you cancelled all your programs for youth ministry at your church for 6 months to regain focus. (or the church you are interviewing for) what would be the response?


What are your big questions about rethinking youth ministry?
O-kay now that I have seen the posters go up and the couches being put in their places and the people are falling in I'm finding my spot.(so to speak) Like I said my name is Julie aka Jewels (I can't remember the last time I was called Julie) Kennedy and I'm a newly wed of 6 months to my wonderful husband Blake. For about 3 years of my life I was apart of a PDC/WCA church. I watched us produce numbers and excitement. I watched as some of it fall apart (along story) and I watched the kids fall apart with it. Through that I realized we were doing something wrong. God has moved me from Arkansas and now I'm living in Canada with my husband. We were asked to put in our resume for Associate/Youth Pastor. What we have presented to them is Family Driven Ministry. It has been difficult because we were asked to do this after we thought we were headed to Russia and now the people who have asked us to put in the resume have now decided they need someone with more bells and whistles. Although they haven't hired anyone we both feel we see the writing on the wall. I have already seen what bells and whistles can do and I don't know that they are what God is wanting us (the "church) to be doing. I could present to our church a bells and whistles program and I know in my heart it would be against what God has shown my husband and I. Anyway, like I said I'm the green one here and I pray God will use me to help you and that I will learn from you also. Hopefully my husband will be able to join in off and on, but he is a full time student right now and not alot of free time. Blessings......
Re-imagining YM Story?

My name is Gman. Actually Gerrard Roy Edward Wallace Weatherbee Parrish Fess. But Gman does it well. I don't do youth ministry.
I don't even know if I really know what it is to do it? I'm re-thinking of a pre-positionalist perspective. We have the games; we try to impact students but what really happens? I mean we question, we seek, we ask. We pour ourselves into programs; yet I'm thinking programs don't cut it. Sure I have a Student Ministry ..but I don't serve (As minister = servant) students. I try to pastor ...not youth; not just an age group; but a flock. Is it hard? Sure. Do I want to evangelize? Sure. Do I need to take people from where they are to where they need to be? Sure. Re-imagining youth ministry would be where it not only helps students and their lives but families. What do you think? Currently I'm reading the Emerging Church ...postmodernism is out the window. So what can we do to re-imagine youth ministry. I've been at this a while and always up for something new.
My name is Tony Jones, and I think we should euthanize ALL PROGRAMS. They're basically worthless and do little to facilitate true spiritual transformation. Forget relevance, paradigms, and diagrams. To rethink, we, we must first deconstruct.

Joining the Conversation...

Hey All! My name is Randy Bennett and I have been doing youth ministry since September of 1997. I spent five years at a church of about 300 where I was the first youth minster they had employed. I built a youth ministry from scratch with very little direction from the church. I made a lot of mistakes and had some successes and built some great relationships with students and their families. In October of 2002, I left that church (long story, many of you could probably tell the same story) and came to Gun Lake Community Church. GLCC is a Purpose Driven church and we are in the process of transitioning from the old-school model of "Youth Group" to a more relevant model, using Purpose Driven principles.

I'm looking forward to the ideas that will be presented here - mostly, I look forward to being challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone by others in the trenches with me.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Hey there. My name is Stacy Sublett, but you can call me Stac. I've been in student ministry since 1988. I married my best friend (Kimberly) in 1990 and started full-time ministry here in Pennsylvania. We've run through all the similar approaches that I imagine you have--Sonlife, Willow Creek, Saddleback. We have been trying to do the Purpose Driven thing for the last 6 years, 4 in my current church.

What I've been struggling with most is that we've created a pretty balanced program, but we aren't seeing our ministry turn out many leaders. We've done a great job of creating a place where students can come get to know other students and adults, plug into Bible studies, worship, take part in service projects, learn about the need to share their faith with their friends...but not much in terms of real leadership development. I've got a good/great team of adult leaders, but we're not seeing the power of God transform lives. That's the rub. That's what keeps me up at night lately. I'm in a great congregation, seeing ourselves as part of the church of the city. My lead pastor is a keeper, and we're going to see this through. We have identified the problem. Now we pray, and we're trusting God for a breakthrough.

I want to explore what God is doing in the emerging church, with alternative worship, etc. But even more than the latest buzz words and trends of the church, I want to connect with some other folks who want to see students being transformed by the life-giving power of Jesus.

One of the coolest things that I have going for me is that I get to coach baseball at the local high school. I'm praying that God brings opportunities to share real life with the young men and coaches on the team.
My name is John Wilsford. I have been working with youth for years in official and unofficial roles. I have come to the conclusion that most of us are converting kids to ourselves, to entertainment, to shock value, to extreme emotions, to a group, but not to Jesus. Far too often, our idea of ministry is about activity and personal fulfillment – getting the “ministry buzz”.

I believe that the entire ministry within the church is not working. This is working to stratify and segregate the church into competing groups. And these groups are about turf, not about Christ.

I look forward to figuring some of this out together.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

My name is Jay Huff and I have been in ministry with youth since 1993. Six of them full time and 4 bi-vocational. Looking for ways to move from youth ministry to just plain ministry...building the church through relationships that extend beyond the youth group. I have been very successful at building youth groups, but have sucked at including the church. I have allowed the members to sit back and be proud of what their "youth director" is doing instead of getting them off their lazy butts and being involved.
One of the great things about being bi-vocational is that I can go to any church that I want because I am not relying on that income... and I can go to a small church that wouldn't be able to afford someone with my experience and success... that also make me more adventurous in trying new ideas (and confronting parents) because I am not worried about losing my job.
That is a little about me and why I am here... let's get to thinking outside the box!
WHAT UP, FOOZ: My name is Rudy, and I'm a youth pastor. I've been a youth pastor for 12 years. Sort of. Really since 1996. But longer than that. You know what I mean. The last youth ministry book I read was The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization by Thomas Friedman. But the last youth ministry book I read that I pulled off the shelf in the YOUTH MINISTRY section was... haven't been in a Christian bookstore for a while. But Tony Jones gave me a copy of Postmodern Youth Ministry. PHOTO: That's me and my mom back in the late 60s.
First of all, Hi Mark! ;) Felt like I was in AA meeting for a sec. My name is Jewels Kennedy. I don't know what to really say for right now, but I have been rediscovering what it means to be a Christian with a heart for a church to become Christ centered and to be a community. I'm green at some of this so I cannot wait to grow and to hear what everyone has to share.

Friday, March 21, 2003

My Name is Mark Riddle:

My name Mark Riddle and I'm a Youth Pastor. I've built my life around being a lifer. One of those guys who said he would never be a Senior Pastor and dedicate my life to youth ministry. I excelled in my vocation. Leading groups of 20, 50, 150, 300 teens each week. I'm good at what I do. I've read a lot of books. Books on youth ministry, business and church life. I've been to all the cool conferences several times. You know the ones I'm talking about. The big "national" conferences where all the youth pastors gather and the small regional conferences too! I could give half the worships at these national conferences word for word I've been so many times. I even lead workshops at some. I'm fluent in what all the progressive churches are doing around the world in youth ministry. Ok... around my world..America. Chicago, Mission Viejo, Tipp City, Edina, Louisville, Tulsa, Eden Praire, Irvine, Dallas, Houston, Colombus, San Antonio, or Colorado Springs I knew churches there and what they were doing. Eventually I even gained friendships with some of the people employed by these churches. I use their names in conversations with other Youth Pastor's to help them look up to me. I know their programs and other like em... Purpose Driven (PDYM), Son Life, YoungLife, Youth For Christ, oneighty, Kingdom builders and Ground Zero. I know words like Post Modern. I know the litany of churches and people who profess to be post-modern. I've tried the postmodern youth minstry thing.
I've built programs. Boy have I built programs. Programs for Jr high students and programs for SR high. I've put programs with Purpose's, I've filtered programs through funnels and cones. I've built programs for students at various levels of commitment.. even seekers. I've done small group programs, Hyped-up David Letterman crazy programs written up in youth Group magazine programs, multi-level missions to the world programs , student leadership programs, youth worship services, enourmous outreach programs, concerts, retreats and Bible Studies. I've also built teams to build the more programs.
After over a decade of cramming for the Youth Pastor test in the sky and building youth ministry machines that will be perpetuated long after I'm gone, I have this very sick feeling. Something like Jack Nicholson in "About Schmit" I have discovered I have misspent a large portion of my life. I'm not called to be a lifer. I'm not called to be a Youth Pastor. You may ask how I discovered this fact? You may say that I've impacted the lives of hundred, if not thousands of students over the past 12 years. I would say to you. Yes I have impacted students.. but probably less for the good than the bad. I've taught them (unintentionally mind you) that the enourmous and diverse bride of Christ is a youth group. That life should be fun and that the church should cater to them. I've taught them that they don't need adults.. and any needs they have from adults should be brought to them by adults... I've enabled a generation of young people to leave the greater community of God to find a local church to meet their needs. I've taught them to be selfish spiritually. I've taught them that church is about fun and God. I've enable lazy parents when I've taken the primary spiritual nurture of their kids in my hands. Youth group is not real life. I was paid to minister to students on behalf of a congregation. What lesson am I teaching students about ministry, community and God when I leave for another job? I can't do this anymore. No. I will not do this any more. Teens need adults in their church, not volunteers. They need churches where communities naturally flow from relationships with various generations. Don't call me a youth pastor. I hate that term. I will not be a youth pastor to you or to anyone. I feel the weight and burden of misleading a generation of students. I feel the pain of creating, building andperpetuating a system that teaches a different Gospel. Am I being to hard on myself? I think not! The community is where God meets his people. The whole community. What kind of God does a group of teens isolated in their youth group see? What does he look like? Are you called to do this?
We must reimage what it means to be involved in the lives of students. We must reimage our role!
My name is mark. I used to be a youth pastor and I'm sorry I was. Will you forgive me?