*In his book Crossing Over, author and pastor Paul Scanlon challenges his readers to identify what they don’t want before considering what they do want. After observing our youth ministry and other youth ministries around us I came up with a list of seven things I didn’t want our youth ministry to be. I follow each observation with a statement of what I do want to see.
Observation #3: Many youth churches are operating separately from the church as a whole.
Unfortunately this is a very common trait among youth ministries. When a youth church operates this way, it acts like nothing more than a para-church organization.
Essentially they are communicating to the church they’re supposedly a part of, “You exist to serve our needs.”
Youth Ministry was never meant to be this way. The youth ministry or youth church we lead is part of a bigger picture, the church. It’s healthy for our students to understand there is more to their spiritual growth and experience than the mid-week service.
Our task is to raise up young people who will be connected to God, the youth ministry, and the church.
There are many reasons youth pastors fall into the trap of running ministry that doesn’t line up with their lead Pastor. Some don’t believe in the vision their senior leader has for the church. So instead of finding a place where they do believe in the direction of the leader and align the youth ministry accordingly they simply collect their paycheck and act independently.
This passive aggressive approach to leadership cannot be kept from students and soon they begin to detect the undercurrent.
What’s worse, youth leaders are faced with the inevitable truth that we reproduce who we are, not necessarily what we’ve taught. You may have been teaching obedience, but you’ve modeled rebellion.
Some youth ministries operate independently of their church because the church has not clearly identified its mission, vision, or clarified its unique style. In these cases it’s important for the youth pastor to communicate with the lead pastor in an effort to understand and/or help their leader define these for the church and then follow suit.
Even if you can’t get the senior leader to write it down, try to understand their heart for the church and make sure the youth ministry reflects it.
Still other youth ministries operate independently of the church because the youth pastor is not sure of the direction he/she is actually leading. They may align ministry for a season, but as soon as the winds of change bring a new idea along the ministry is blown in that direction.
Quite frankly, I’ve struggled in this area myself from time to time. I think it may be a simple matter of not knowing exactly what it was God had in mind for our youth ministry. Exercises like this one, where I carefully consider what God is speaking to me are helpful.
At NWLife we work hard to make sure our ministries are in alignment. On a given Sunday, you could walk through the toddlers, preschool, elementary, and youth meetings and find that they are in line with the teaching of “big church.”
Each leader of these different areas has a unique style to them, but they’re all teaching the same core values. As a church we have decided we are stronger when we are united and worker in alignment. God loves unity.
…the Youth Church I see leads and serves NWLife Church by example. Students are marked by their devotion and service to the church as a whole. I see a youth church that acts as the pace setters for the rest of the body.
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)