Thursday, October 6, 2011

Random Thoughts on Youth Ministry

I don't have near enough time to write like I wish I could. I mean, I have to write for seminary but currently, all my writing projects are boring so I have no interest in actually writing them. I am looking forward to graduation so I can finally return to my outlet for getting stress out--writing!

Anyway, I have a bit of time before my wife gets back from work and we have friends over so I think now would be a good time to write a quick post on youth ministry (that probably applies to all of the church but since I am a youth pastor, I will apply it just to that). Basically for the past...oh...three years or so, I have been attempting to grid out the type of students that pass through our youth ministry. This helps me figure out where they were, where they are, and where they should be spiritually. The problem is (and if you ever read any youth ministry books you will immediately see my point) EVERYONE has a method or a grid for student ministry. Each one proposes that you should use their method to advance students further.

I've never been that thrilled by methodology. It bores me and makes me feel like a crappy Christian and pastor because I don't do the things they say I should do. So  instead of being filled with new, innovative ideas, I normally just get depressed and lament that I stink at life or get frustrated because my budget isn't big enough to implement the idea.

I have largely abandoned methodologies. When I was called into ministry, the thing that burdened my heart the most was biblical illiteracy in the church. That is the thing that keeps me going every morning--I want that to change. I probably would have burnt out of ministry had it not been for God continually spurring me on by reminding me of that fact. So my entire ministry at every single church I have worked at has been "Don't let the kids leave with a superficial understanding of God's Word."

I suppose things have become slicker the longer I've been in ministry. I try not to info-dump on students anymore. I try to make doctrine cooler by having cool handouts and illustrations and, when we finally get this new youth house, I hope to implement videos and more. But really, all of this is in service to the simple fact that I want students to fall in love with God through the Bible.

All of this is to say that I got a new book I am suppose to be reviewing in like two weeks for Zondervan. The book is Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. It's pretty massive and with all of my other reading projects I am going to go out on a limb and say I will probably only complete part 1 on Christian Spirituality (rough 240 pages). Besides, I don't really want to read a bunch of random articles. The first part is the fascinating part anyway...but I digress.

Anyway, the first chapter in the book is laying the foundation for Christian spirituality. The author has this absolutely outstanding breakdown of the dynamics of Christian spirituality and Ill list them here.

Dynamics of Christian Spirituality

From a Christocentric point of view this would be...

Relational = Christ with us
Transformational = Christ in us
Vocational = Christ working through us

To put it a different way, the author says the cycle consists of...

Encounter = Relational = Christ with us
Change = Transformational = Christ in us
Action = Vocational = Christ working through us

These three things not steps but are constant ongoing processes.

So this leads me to my own basic grid (that I have been working on for years and finally, today, was able to make sense of by reading the article). Youth pastors will encounter four basic types of students in their ministries...

1) Those who are not believers
2) Those who are focused on encountering God
3) Those who are focused on change
4) Those who are focused on action

Those focused on the encounter are ones who are basically seeking relationship with God. Often times they are heavily swayed by emotion and are flighty. The services need to be jam up in order for them to encounter God. These are often the ones that are most easily broken...the ones that constantly go up to the front.

Those focused on the change are the ones that normally have been immature but are moving towards greater understanding of what being a Christian is all about. The danger for these students is that they might fall into legalism.

Those who are focused on action are the go-getters. They want to be involved in all things missions. They are driven by what the youth group is doing. They will volunteer for everything. The danger here is that the student associates what he is doing for relationship. Sometimes the most shallow students are the ones that do the most so you need to be careful to make sure these students get proper nutrition in God's Word. While not everything is cognitive, not everything is action-oriented.

Just some thoughts.

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