Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What to Do?

A few weeks ago a reader left this comment:

"What I feel Jesus leading me to do in youth ministry and what my church expects me to do in youth ministry are often quite different. My church expects the T-shirts and the hundreds of kids laughing and playing and having a good time. Oh yeah, and then they want those same kids to show up for "real" church. My team and I feel Jesus calling us to a much quieter, more "insignificant" (as far as numbers) existence that allows students to question, struggle, doubt and grow in their faith at their own pace - something much more lasting than the emotional high of a bait-and-switch event.”
I have a young youth pastor friend who faced a similar dilemma. He recently resigned from his first youth ministry position because his pastor (a former youth pastor himself) wanted the high-profile, event-driven, bells-and-whistles youth ministry mentioned above.
Walking away is an option. But is it the best (or only) option?


Scott Williams said...

One of the things that I've been trying to work out in my head has been that senario. Specifically, if I were in a youth pastor position again what would the ministry look like and how would I address the "forces that be" who were trying to do youth ministry as it's been done. One advantage that I have going for me is my age and youth ministry experience and would, unlike your friend in his first position, be able to set the stage for the type of ministry that I felt needed to be done. I would be able to choose the ministry that I would be a part of rather than find a church wanting a youth pastor (generic). I would approach that assignment much different than I did when I was new.

As for staying or resigning, that would depend upon the convictions of the youth pastor and the communication and relationship with the leadership. Communication can go a long way to set up what is trying to be accomplished.

It, however as you know well Tracy, is not the cure all in the ministry as the underlying philosphy is different and is the issue at hand.

Resign or stay? We all resigned after a combined experience of 30-40 years.....

dean said...

walking away is the best option if the leadership and the parents don't want to know anything other than what their preconceived notions are about what a "successful" youth ministry should be. as scott said though, communication is the big deciding factor in that.

in my denomination, as is probably true in most if not all denoms, numbers, sadly = "bragging rights" and if the senior pastor doesnt have something to brag about to the other pastors, then the heat is on, and the youth pastor is the guy getting scorched. when i re-read that last statement, i see how horribly cynical that is, but based on experience, it's also a fact.

IF, however, a youth pastor can convey his vision to the leadership, and get them to buy into that vision, then an environment can be created in which kids, rather than groups, can grow. unfortunately, i don't know of any youth pastor in his/her first position that can pull that off.

Michael said...

You know, if you leave, they'll just hire someone who will do the big programs and the bait and switch. And the kids will be left with a youth ministry that is a lot of fun but doesn't facilitate real growth or really help them plant deep roots. There is much to be said for sticking it out and trying to enact gradual change. It might be slow, but if you start small and gradually try to change the culture of the youth group and/or the church, it is possible.

At least I hope so, because that's what I'm trying to do.

Anonymous said...

I see the reasons for staying, but as someone who "stayed" for a couple of years, it doesn't get better, only worse. The expectations don't stop just because you want to go another direction. They multiply since you are not meeting your goals (or what their goals are for you and the program). Eventually it just becomes too frustrating and you quit anyway (with a bad refrence for your next job) or they go a different direction(fire you) and you have a bad refrence for your next job. Sometimes changing the ministry mentality of the church takes changing the leadership (Pastor)

Anonymous said...

To walk or to stay is a case by case deal - it's just not that clean cut to say which is better. Here's my thing - a youth ministry is a part of the church as a whole, and under the leadership that is there. If as the lead youth worker you can't buy into the vision of the church and follow your leadership, regardless of whose problem it is, you're in the wrong place. On the other hand, you may be being used to help bring new vision to the leadership, but you have to trust your leader.

I think of David and Saul; David stuck around for a while under some serious crap, and was used. But later it was time even for him to cut out.

Anonymous said...

If everyone walks away how will change take place?

For those of us that stay, how will change take place?

Do we... do I... even know how to bring about change in our current setting? Or can all we do is talk about it?

What does change really look like?

I know I want change... but I'm at a loss for how it takes place practically in our youth groups.

I'm confused, scared, discouraged, tired, and I have no clue what I'm doing.

Anonymous said...

Youth ministry today at some churchs is no more then daycare! Some place to drop off the kids and pick them up later. And a lot of the parents don't want to know when "their" child does wrong, I mean not my child, they do no wrong. As a worker at my church and a deacon, I see a lot of the problems with youth ministry, but the one question we all have, how to fix it.