Looking back over 20 years of Youth Ministry….
- Young Life
- Small rural church
- Medium size urban
- large multi-diverse
There is one thing that continues in some ways to haunt me. There is much that can be said in regards to lack of vision, implementation and philosophy (which I really never had for much of in my early ministry years).
For many years I had a lone ranger mentality. Some would perceive my individuality as a personal strength – it was the farthest thing from a strength. I was hiding glaring weaknesses;
- fear of failure
- a very strong savior complex
- and did I mention pride
I could use every excuse in the book why I was the way I was and why I did what I did….
- lack of a father figure
- lack of a mentor
- lack of experiential learning in college
- it’s just how I am created!! I was born this way!!
The brutal truth is this;
It was all about me in my early years of youth ministry – if anyone asked me why I was a youth pastor I regurgitated the line over and over again…”I WAS CALLED TO YOUTH MINISTRY”….what a crock!!
My ultimate goal and drive was to attract students (certainly not their annoying parents) to myself. To have them follow me -to hang on every word that came out of my mouth – to emulate my fashion – attitudes – vocabulary – common interests….need I go on?
I was distracted by the lie of attracted. The sad thing is to look at the outcomes of that style of supposed spiritual leadership. There is no simple way to describe it….
It was a trainwreck…
In those early days my only success was sabotaging the spiritual formation of students and their families because I was attempting to fill the empty void within my own life.
I have made peace in terms of contacting numerous students that I “hung out” with back in those days – and I asked for forgiveness.
The amazing thing (not sure why I am amazed?) Is that I am continuing to see this story played out in the lives of youth pastors/workers across our nation.
All you have to do is sit on Facebook or Twitter for a few hours and the perception will transform to the fact that this is our current reality within the North American landscape. (…to clarify not every youth pastor/worker is going down this path)
We have to come to the realization that Youth Ministry (every type/form/method of ministry to be exact) does not exist for US. I firmly believe that RELATIONSHIP has been – is – and will always be the foundation of “WHY” we “DO” what we do.
But here lies the challenge – if we are not disciple makers and we are clearly not being agents of change in this world – then “WHY” are we really doing this? Our students don’t need caregivers or glorified babysitters. They are not looking for a “ROCK STAR” youth communicator or the next flashy program.
They are longing for the exact thing we all long for : THEY WANT TO KNOW WHO THEY WERE CREATED TO BE & THEY WANT TO BELONG.
My prayer is that as we continue to invest in this generation of world changers – that God would break down the distraction of attraction in each of us…and that first and foremost will we find out identity in Jesus and in Him alone.