*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 #2: Many youth churches are cozy, comfortable, and content.
This observation requires a little explanation. I spoke with a youth pastor in our area a few years ago who told me he was thrilled with his youth ministry and how it was running. I was happy to hear such a good report so I asked him what was going so well. He proceeded to tell me things that made my jaw drop.
He explained that his group was right about 12-14 students and he was hoping it wouldn’t grow anymore because they all fit in the 15 passenger van the church had. He continued and told me the group was easy to control at their current size and if other students came it would ruin that.
I don’t remember my exact response or what my face was doing when he explained himself, but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This is the wrong mindset for any leader in the church. Remember the parable of the talents? Jesus tells the story of a man about to leave on a trip. He calls his servants together and entrusts his money to them while he’s gone.
He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. (Matthew 25:15)
The story continues and the first two servants invest the money and double it. The master is thrilled with their efforts and rewards them with larger responsibilities.
Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ (Matthew 25:24-25)
I can almost relate to this servant. I mean he was afraid of his master, he didn’t want to screw up, so he did what a lot of us do. He played it safe. He did nothing. At least he didn’t lose the money right?
But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. (Matthew 25:26-29)
Apparently doing nothing with the money he was given was the wrong decision. Playing it safe didn’t pay off at all, instead it cost him everything.
Leaders with this type of mindset won’t make it either. If we’re content to play it safe with our cozy little group of students because it’s comfortable than we’ve missed the point of why Jesus came in the first place.
Jesus said, “For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners… Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” (Matthew 9:12-13)
Jesus is constantly calling on us to reach outside our comfort zone and love the unlovable. He didn’t put stipulations on who was eligible to receive grace, healing, or forgiveness. He loves unconditionally. So the question that begs to asked is, “Why are some youth ministries content with where they are presently?”
Have we decided we’ve reached all that we can? Or worse, we’ve reached all that we’re comfortable reaching? Our doors must be open and accessible to all people.
…the Youth Church I see is one where extra security is needed because raw, un-churched young people, with tough backgrounds are meeting Jesus weekly. In the youth church I see mission trips and serving the less fortunate are not just ideas that we talk about, they happen regularly.