Some of you may know this and some of you may doubt this, but it really is true. I think A LOT! Like really, I am thinking about things all the time. Thinking gets in my way of doing things that I'd really like to be doing, like relaxing. I'd love to be doing more of that. My thinking often becomes a prayer, a conversation with God on the many things that crowd my small and over filled mind. Just as I'm ready to throw my hands up in the air and say, "Take this burden from me," God interrupts me with some brilliant, divinely inspired message and suddenly I'm the smartest person I know.
One of those moments occurred this fall when I was faced with the need to restructure our Youth Ministry at St. Stephen's. You see, magazines and media create a picture of what we think youth ministry should look like. There should be ridiculous games,pizza and soda at every event, music-lots of loud worship music, crowds of students with their hands in the air praising God and a speaker that delivers a life changing message each week. What I just described sounds more like a concert. In fact, I just attended an incredible Christian retreat (Hot Hearts) that fits this description to a T. I hear students say, "I wish church could always be like this." Yeah, how great would that be! Buy a ticket, sit down, get your worship on and then when the party is over, get back to life as you know it. I'm afraid that when our students are brought up to believe that youth group should be their weekly entertainment, we are producing children that can go to regularly scheduled youth group meetings, be entertained, have some fun, read a couple of bible passages and then turn around and get back to life as it is for them. I'm afraid that the overall core of what it means to be a Christian and to live as Christians doesn't happen through playing games, listening to the latest Christian jam and reading some bible verses. Application is necessary in learning to live a life of and with Christ. How do students learn to live this kind of life? They see it demonstrated and lived out by others in their home family, church family and other important influential people in their lives. They are taken alongside these seasoned servants of the Lord and guided in their own unique walks of faith through service to the church, community and world. Now that is a powerful picture! This is the structure of ministry that we are creating here at St. Stephen's.
What I want for students as they graduate from high school and go on to college is a firm foundation of faith and the wisdom to know how to put their faith in action. I want each student to have the understanding that they belong in a church, they are vital to the life of the church, the universal church and the world. As humans, we have a need to be with others, a need to feel like we belong, a desire to feel connected. Today, we have too many superficial opportunities that trick our minds into believing that we are connected while we still search for meaningful relationships. I believe that youth ministry is a tool through which students learn and put their faith into action, not a source of entertainment to take the place of church. I believe that the youth minister's job is not to create a place for the teens of the church to gather individually, but to help create a church where teens are welcomed to sit and serve with the larger church body.
I hope that during this year of transformation, you will look at how God is working through the challenges that we face and creating a vibrant community of teens stepping up and stepping out in faith to the glory of God, our Father. Please pray for the adults that will lead this mission and the students whose lives we will impact.
PS - Take a look at this article about how typical youth ministry works counter to producing children who will follow God forever and stay committed to the universal church.