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Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Answering a question:

What do you think are the top 5 most crucial things young youth workers should be aware of when beginning youth work?


I have to admit this question stumps me a bit. the idea of coming of with the 5 most crucial things leaves me feeling like I'm going to get 2 crucial things and leave out something important. Mostly because I don't think in these kinds of terms often. But I'm going to give it a shot.... ifI can have permission to change my mind.

1. Youth ministry is God redeeming young people for his purposes, through his means, in his timing for his Glory.
In other words... your Youth ministry is not about you. - Though you might agree very quickly to this statement... most youth pastors young and old alike make their ministries about them in one way or another. This misplaced focus takes many different shapes.
Shape #1 - Everything revolves around the youth pastor. the yp always speaks at large group gathering. always leads the bible studies. plans the retreats. is the sole coach for small group leaders. goes on all the missions trip. and why not you might ask. That's what they pay me for! or you might say... I'm a gifted teacher/speaker... I'm the one who knows teenagers around here... i'm the expert...
while this may appear to be harmless, and youth pastors should use their gifts. It's easy to make youth ministry revolve around a relationship with the youth pastor. And if you are paid. there will very likely come a time when you will leave. so lets be honest for a minute. You get paid to love kids. You would not be in their lives if you didn't get a paycheck. Don;'t let the youth ministry revolve around you.
Shape #2 - Your ego and self image are attached to the success of your youth ministry.
Danger signs for #2....
a,) You feel especially good about yourself if..... you have a great night.... a big crowd... a decision or two to follow Christ...
b.)You feel bad about yourself if you.... have a small crowd... no decisions... people talked during worship... etc.
c) You feel you need to be spectacular everytime you open your mouth and in ever way you perform your duties as yp.
d) You personally need to be needed by others. You desire to be personally relevant to students and their families.
e.) You desire power and control and are not happy until you have it... or it is taken from you.
Shape #3 - Do youth ministry the way it was done when you were a kid.
There's more... but I'll stop now.

2. Ruthlessly guard your personal life with God.
While most take this to mean.. read your bible and pray everyday. (which are good things to do by the way) I would say... if you get paid to do youth ministry, then that's only part of your ministry. OR put another way. Your ministry is not limited to Youth ministry or it's attached parts. You are an adult. Minister to adults too. Be a apart of a community that is healthy and striving to be faithful. Be close to God. This is what a great youth pastor does. If you are close to God. Then close to kids.. you will never need a program or an All nighter. this is your job. love God. be with kids.

There's obviously way more here.... but you get it.

3. Learn what systems thinking is and let it be apart of everything that happens in your ministry. A must read for Seminaries and every pastor leading a local congregation is "The 5th Discipline" by Peter Senge and it's related books.

4. Be a humble learner
. Develop relationships with older youth pastors and pastors in your area and regularly pick their brains. Ask them questions. Go and visit people you respect and are reading. Read voraciously. Dont use this as an excuse to be lazy... but find ways to have meaningful challenging and encouraging conversations with as many different people as you can... as often as you can.

5. I'm going to think about number 5.... i want to keep my options open. what do you think it should be?

End of Summer Burnout
This time of year, every year, I hate being a youth pastor. I am always burned out, tired of people, and can't look at another PB & J sandwich for a few months. But this year was a little different. I tried doing some things that I have always wanted to do and I changed the format of how youth ministry is done this summer. Believe it or not I am feeling pretty good about things and I am not burned out, but excited about what can happen next... it seems that building community was what took place instead of building progams and activities. The great thing that happened this year as well was that I was up to my armpits with adults (people without youth) and there was some great interaction going on.

So what was different this year than the years before?

1- My attitude- I had given up having to control everything and allow adults and students to take responsibility


2- I wasn't trying to please everyone- as a matter of fact I had more confrontation this summer than I have had in my whole 10 years of ministry- but the reality was that everyone was honest with each other- when we were pissed, we shared that and then moved on. Not only between adults, but between the youth as well.

Anyway I think as a result of those things, that we were able to focus more on our own walk with Jesus and how we journey together and less on what I am needing to do next so everyone has a "good" time. God honored our efforts this summer.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Interesting conversation I had on a message board. Here is the jest
The topic is are we rethinking Youth Ministry From at
Youth 's forums
One youthworker asked do we need to even rethink youth ministry
what is wrong with it?
Here is my reply? so how long have you been in youth ministry and how
do you know so much about it; that it doens't need to be changed?
You know the answer I got was? Well, I've been doing this for years
but I just graduated from college this past Spring and am a Full time
youth worker now.
So the question still remains how do we rethink? I think several of these posts
got it right. It comes with change within; time and also patience and lots of
prayer. What do you think?

In a much different perspective; what would you do to rethink church?
And how would you first approach a new ministry in rethinking church to rethink
youth ministry? This would be a benefit for me as I'm moving onto a new ministry avenue. More later. Comments?

Saturday, July 12, 2003

here are some foundational thought (in my mind) for rethinking youth ministry. There are starting points. None of these are new. Many of you do these. or believe these.

1. The church must change first before youth ministry can be rethought.
1a. The church does not equal youth ministry.
2. Everyone is called to be in ministry. Pastor's primary role is not to build ministries or to do ministry, but to be with God, seek his will, be with people and with those people create an atmosphere condusive for people joining God in his redemptive work through the gifts God has given.

3. Perceiving and engaging the redemptive work of God through the living presence of Jesus in his community is more important for followers of Jesus than knowing a lot of Bible.

4. Ministry to students that does not connect them to a greater community (esp. beyond age) is a waste of time.
4a. ministering only to youth and not their families is a waste of time.

5. Parents are called by God to be the primary spiritual nurtures of their kids. And ALL parents are leading their kids spiritually. (for better or for worse) Be assured. That 80% of your students will adopt the spiritual practices of their parents regardless of their involvement in your ministry.

that's enough for now.
I have to put some kids to bed.


Tuesday, July 08, 2003

an open letter to Mike Yaconelli.

Mike. thanks for your love for youth workers. thanks for your huge heart. Your voice has been a strong encouragement to me in my life and ministry. My soul was in danger in a big mega position a few years back. You wrote an article that said, "Run for your soul". God used those words. I needed to run. so i did. i left ministry. or i should say. I left employment within a church. God has used you to minister to other's on journey's similar to mine. they don't believe in youth ministry anymore. Don't let that phrase lead you to believe that these brothers and sisters are not called to make sure students are ministered to. No these are folks who resonate with your words. Words that I think are strangely intuitive to you. Words I'm not sure you fully comprehend the magnitude of. Regardless there is a dangerous group of people out here.... committed to reaching students... and doing it in a way that will not ultimately hurt them. we are out here. Many of us have one foot out the door. We are contemplating working at Best Buy so we can be fully faithful. Many of us have found a local congregation that is allowing us to reimagine youth ministry. A growing majority are leaving ministry alltogether. These are people you've seen at conferences years ago. you've shaken our hands. You've received our emails. We are finding that there is not a bridge to this new kind of ministry with students.
Emergent is not it. though it is a part of it. There is not really any new thinking about youth ministry coming from this movement. It is a bridge for people to step into church planting. but many of us are not called to plant churches. What emergent will provide in years to come is an environment to rethink ym. This is all good.

Mike. We think youth ministry as an experiment is a failure. You had it right the first time. Your hunch was right. Youth ministry is not working. However, It is possible to encourage youth workers and affirm them in their calling and simultaneously say that ym is failing. To challenge them to rethink this ministry is not only a good idea, it is essential.
Let me challenge you to continue to rethink ym, or find ways of giving a voice to those who are. At least find ways of building a bridge to the future...of youth ministry for the growing number of us who are leaving traditional situations.
Let me assure you that I know this is not your responsability. It is not your job (or Youth Specialties) to provide these "ministers in the margins of ym" resources and encouragement as they are on their journey. your company sells books. mostly based on the idea of encouragement. you are a clearing house for youth ministry resources. You do this well. People put to many things on you and YS that do not belong there. If this email is simply another youth pastor whining to you about wanting YS to do something for them, please ignore it. But if you feel there might be something to this, then I would encourage you to find ways to immediately start engaging people in the conversation. If you desire, I would be willing to help. My involvement is not neccesary. But there is a need.

thanks again mike!

mark riddle

Monday, July 07, 2003

An Apology
what do you think?
Getting Fired from Youth Ministry
So here we are trying to re-imagine youth ministry and YAC apologizes for his harsh words of last month. So has youth ministry failed or not?