A Word About Relevance In Your Youth Ministry
I was at lunch one day with a student pastor who had just started at his first church. We were talking about philosophy, and strategy, and programming . . . you know, nuts and bolts type stuff. As we talked, my friend asked me what all I did to make our ministry relevant to students. I started explaining. Then, he clarified his question in a way that really got my attention . . .
“No, no, no. I mean, like, what kind of stuff do you do to make it feel less like church?”
Now I'm not here to pick on my friend. I know he meant well, and I think we all know what he was getting at with the question. But, the way the question was phrased really stopped me in my tracks. I found myself not knowing how to respond. After a few seconds, I kind of looked at him and said, “Well . . . nothing.”
You may find yourself in that odd spot where you’re wondering what you can do to attract more students, or to attract a kind of student than you’re not really drawing. If this is where you are, you might be tempted to think in terms of my friend. "What can we do to make church look less like church? What can we do to be more relevant?"
One word of caution as you navigate these waters: Be sure you’re asking the right question. The key is to REVEAL the relevance of Christ, and of the Bible, and of the Church. (Let's remember, Christ gave Himself up for the Church! He loves the Church!)
Our desire shouldn't be to try to force some superficial and ill-fitting relevance on God. Layering on the trappings of our culture, in whatever forms they may take, simply to draw those who are curious about God is like trying to catch a fish with a burrito. That's simply not what the fish is hungry for! Jesus said to lift HIM high, and HE would draw all men to Himself. Our job is to drill down to the essentials of God and His ways and show students just how relevant He is.
So, how do we go about doing this?
Following are a few questions to ask yourself as you seek to engage students with the truth of Christ in a meaningful way:
- Is any aspect of what I’m thinking of doing going to dishonor God?
- Will making this shift help people see Jesus or just make them like me and our student ministry more?
- In doing what I’m planning, will I really be accomplishing the commission to make disciples?
- Will doing what I’m planning make it easier or more difficult for me to show students once they are saved what following Christ really looks like?
- Is my motivation to fill a seat or to fill the Kingdom?
Relevance is not bad, in fact it’s very, very good. The church has been making the timeless truths of Scripture relevant to their specific context for centuries.