Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10 am are particularly exciting for me. These are the times we as a youth staff have set aside to discuss the ins and outs of ministry… which often turns into hours of brainstorming and rethinking youth ministry. As we left our meeting today I couldn’t decide if we should be called hippies or border line commies (jk) who are infiltrating the lives of homeschoolers and military kids of Kailua ;)… It could take years to put the ideas we tossed around today into action, but if they ever grounded into the institution of the Church, youth ministry would begin to look very different than it does today.
“Organic” was the word of the day as we thought of several different models of ministry that might work not only for our church – but that also embody the essence of the body of Christ and represent the Gospel of redemption. What if youth group was not just another program that fills up a night of the week with games and a message for our already over programmed kids, but if it served as a living, breathing microcosm of God’s kingdom and the Church as Christ intended… What if we took a spiritual inventory of our kids (not through cheesy surveys or tests, but through the nature of relationships – and probably through small groups) and found out not only where their passions are, but how they might serve the kingdom and worship God with the gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit! And then, maybe, just maybe, we might actually put those to use…
Now, I know a lot of churches use their students for leading worship and probably some other areas too, but what if we took it a step further… And I’m not talking about making “teams” or “committees” (i.e. – hey I’m on the prayer team, or I’m on the welcoming committee), not that teams and committees are bad – because I think they can be good and are often used effectively… but what if students used their gifts simply because they’re gifted, not because they’ve signed themselves up for another commitment. Before you think I’m nuts and dreaming out in far left field here (and maybe I am, but I don’t care) – let me share an example I thought of this morning…
As I read my “Thinking Theologically about Youth Ministry” book in the comfort of our blue recliner, the concept of using our students and their God given gifts in youth ministry was threaded throughout the chapter and got my brain ticking a bit… I really want to go beyond the realm of meet and greet and worshiping through music as the focus points for using our kids’ talents – because let’s be honest, not only does it not fit for each teen (singing is not my forte, that’s for sure), but it can also sometimes shape our idea of “church” into the box of singing songs and being hospitable (which are very good elements in and of themselves; please don’t confuse me on this). But I think there’s more we can be doing. For instance – one of our girls designs her own clothes. Another girl takes sewing classes. I myself have made a t-shirt or two… why not use our gifts in designing cute clothes (or not so cute clothes, whatever) and give them to the poor? Or perhaps we get a number of students who care about solidarity and as a people who love Jesus, learn to build relationships with the poor. Or maybe youth group on Wednesday night looks more like a united front of people growing in the name of Jesus rather than a bunch of kids who have every single Bible story memorized but lack true passion for Jesus… (speaking of apathetic teens as a whole, not slamming our kids)
Some of these ideas won’t practically work… some of these ideas only work in small churches… and some of these ideas really should be at the heart of every youth ministry. As I write this (rather poorly considering the thoughts that are actually swimming around in my head)… I feel like the typical response to this post might be “wouldn’t it be nice…” or “you’re dreaming sister…” but I can’t help but feel like God – the all powerful Creator of the Universe – has something more for His kids. I don’t actually know how that plays out or what that looks like, but I do know that our youth staff is searching for it.
By the way, a lot of these questions and ideas stem from our ministry directly (high school, not junior high – jr. high is it’s own little story). We have a group of extremely mature high school students who are natural leaders, and who we are trying to stretch and challenge beyond the model of ministry implemented at this point in time. Wacky and crazy games have their place in ministry, as does snack, corporate worship, preaching, etc., but as our culture shifts and the needs of students change, the old school model of youth ministry is rapidly losing its place and the church today finds itself at a critical crossroads in terms of how ministry is executed (which we will have to revisit for another day).
So maybe our students turn out to be hippies who make their own clothes and hang out with the poor because they recognize the sanctity of the Least of These, but hopefully they love Jesus in a raw and refreshing way because they’ve seen Him in a context that is real and tangible and goes much further than the doors of the church.