Thoughts On Youth Ministry and Youth Ministers
ym360 spent Sunday through Wednesday of this week hanging out with hundreds of youth ministers in Dallas, TX at the Texas Baptists' Youth Conclave. Whenever I attend these types of events, I make sure I do so with my ears and eyes open, looking for observations, or common issues, etc. And I make sure I always condense these observations so I can share them with you. So, without further ado, here are some observations I have made after hanging out for a few days with a bunch of awesome youth workers.
Youth Ministry Is Serious Business
I think we've made a significant (and really good) shift in youth ministry over the last decade or two. I think there was a time in the not-so-distant past where it was not only acceptable for a youth minister to be a silly, carefree (and often careless), goofball who fled from concepts like "competency" and "professionalism," but it seemed to be something people embraced. But as we interact with thousand of youth workers a year, I've seen this change pretty dramatically. And this is a good thing. The vast majority of youth workers I know work really hard to be proficient and competent in all areas of their ministries. We're not a perfect lot. But, most youth workers I know value a more professional, more sound way of doing youth ministry. Fun is still fun. We're youth workers, after all. But when we seek to be better at what we do in every way, even the fun we have has an important role in our ministries.
Youth Ministers Are "Hard Pressed"
2 Corinthians 4:8 seems to be a great verse to describe what a lot of youth ministers are experiencing each day as they do ministry: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair." Youth ministers seem to be universally dealing with a ton of junk in their lives. Senior Pastors who are terrible leaders, parents of students making unrealistic demands, parents of students who are completely absent, budget issues, relationship issues, and so on, and so on. But, here's the deal: the vast majority of youth ministers and youth workers I know are not just making it, they're excelling. They are resilient, confident, and ultimately reliant on God. It ain't an easy gig and horror stories abound. But, man, I am SO encouraged at all the guys and gals who rise above the mess to make a profound impact in the lives of teenagers.
Youth Ministers Can Spot Gimmicks . . . And They Don't Seem To Like Them
There will always be gimmicks in youth ministry: cheesy hooks used to sell our programs or events or whatever to students and their parents. It goes with the territory. But, here's what I see: youth workers are DYING for real and transformational resources and experiences to utilize in their ministries. There seems to be less tolerance for those ministers and ministries who peddle more style than substance. We have a ways to go as a group. But I believe youth workers are expecting more from themselves and each other, and especially from other curriculum and event providers.
There quite a few more thoughts I could share. But I thought these three really stuck out. As you look at youth ministry and youth ministers, I'd love to hear what you see. What trends, or issues, or observations are you seeing in youth ministry?