Youth Ministry – The Train is too far from the platform!

In my last post, which you can catch here ,I started a look at one of the questions we ask all too often in youth ministry; why are over 18’s leaving Jesus or as is more often the case, the church?

I stated in the previous post how I felt that all too often we, within youth ministry, had failed to help young people build a personal, robust, authentic, risk taking, generous faith in Jesus as teenagers: but I also feel there is a little more than that.

There’s a reason I work at my church; I love it. I love what we do and I believe we are doing what the Father wants. Under His authority we have released a vision and a direction I am passionate about. When I began to work at my church I wanted to ensure that the youth movement at our church was attached and aligned to that vision. My job was to create and run a vehicle that allowed 11-18 year old’s in their community to experience what my church wished to do across the whole community.

This makes sense doesn’t it? The Youth movement/ministry in any particular church should have the vision, values and experience that is found in the wider church. The problem is I often feel this isn’t the case within youth ministries.

Too often we create youth ministries that might be allowing young people build a personal, robust, authentic, risk taking, generous faith in Jesus as teenagers but because the ministry is misaligned with the whole churches vision these young people have nowhere to go, nowhere to connect and no one to lead them in post youth.

This can cause a number of things in the lives of these guys and girls; an abandonment of faith altogether, a love for Jesus but not the church, a 25 year old in our youth ministry, a physical move to another church/para-church, and/or a desire to create their own church which reflects their views. I’m guessing none of us fully desire any of these options; (points 4 and 5 have potential if carried out in a healthy way but we have no time for discussing that)

Why does this misalignment often occur? Why do us Youth Pastors park so far away from the rest of the church?

  • We don’t fully agree with the vision of the church

Sad but true. I’ve met many youth pastors who openly feel that their church isn’t going a direction they like so they set up the youth ministry with a different style and emphasis than everything else. I guess I understand the reasoning in one sense but If I’m being totally honest I  think I would quit my job tomorrow if I felt that our youth ministry needed to be misaligned for this reason.

I guess there are instances when this “misalignment” is designed to model something to the whole church and the heart is to help. There are even times when a youth ministry with a compelling vision can change the wider church, I’ve heard of it, but it takes a Senior Pastor, staff & lots of other people who are willing to change. I imagine it also takes a lot of time and patience; you cant turn a cruise ship with an oar, you’ll need a little help!

  • We become activity focused, not vision centred

Many a good ministry starts being incredibly aligned to the churches vision. As that ministry grows and flourishes it generates increased activity and this mix often leaves us servicing what we have. We get so busy creating quality programmes and trips and often forget the vision and calling that opened us up to the growth in the first place. It’s like being in the currents when you are at the beach . As far as you can tell you’re doing what you’ve always done but there comes a point when you realise you’ve drifted away from where you started, you will only will realise this if you have a marker that doesn’t move, usually the towel you set by the shore! In ministry our church vision is the marker and it’s vital we keep our eye on it in the midst of all the fun we are having in the water.

  • We see the chapter, not the book

I think sometimes we simply forget that we are a part of something bigger. We get so focused on doing what we do and in building our ministry area that we don’t even think about how it fits in. We need to care as much about the whole church as we do about our youth ministry, in thought even if we might not be able to give physical hours to it. We need to see, listen and sense where church is moving, know the vision deeply and ensure our leaders are living this out as well. Only then can we begin to have a youth ministry that can begin to make a lasting difference in the people of our community.

We need to park closer to the church. We are a cog, not the whole machine.

Trains are meant to pick up someone from one place and drop them at another. If the train doesnt make it or everyone stays in the train it has failed its main calling. It’s vital that we continue to ensure we are fulfilling that calling. We need to fully grasp, know and believe in the direction our church is headed. We need to lay down markers and indicators that ensure that our youth ministries are on track

Please leave the train, take all your belongings and be careful when exiting the carriage

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