Monday, May 12, 2008

Thoughts On Youth Ministry - Remember - Its YOUTH ministry

This week, I'm going to share some of my thoughts on youth ministry. Some stuff I've learned during the last 5 or so years of doing this beautiful task of reaching a new generation during their prime years of dedication to Christ.

My first thought about youth ministry SHOULD be obvious, but we generally don't think about it in this regard. As youth pastors, we do YOUTH ministry. I know what you're thinking - "Duh Steve!" But is it really a duh thought? If so, then why are we trying to make Christian teenagers behave like Christian adults?

Teenagers do teenager things. They are trying to figure out who they are. They are trying to figure out how this whole friend thing works. They are curious about relationships and dating. They are trying to figure out themselves sexually. Too many times we force them to behave like adults, better yet we want them to act like US when it comes to these matters instead of teaching them what the Bible says about the issue and then letting them look at their lives through the lens of scripture.

I remember being a teenager in the youth ministry I came to know the Lord in. It was some great Holy Ghost stuff happening! It was awesome. But every year, we would take a few months and cover the subject of dating. Then, the youth pastor (whom I respect greatly to this day) shared that he was on the journey of finding his wife. He talked about not dating anyone that wouldn't potentially be his wife. That's a GREAT idea for a 28 year old man who was promiscuous in college because he was basketball star and his previous experiences with women were mostly sexual. He went on to say that ultimately, dating was outside of God's will - and anything outside of God's will is sin.

So let me get this straight - I'm trying to figure out this whole relationship thing (I was 17 at the time) and you're telling me that dating is sin (because breaking up and dating and breaking up is "practicing divorce." Aye Carumba!)? I wasn't saying I wanted to have sex, I know what the Bible says about that and I don't need a girlfriend to do it either. I was just trying to do what all healthy, attractive 17 year old boys do - try to figure this whole dating thing.

So, secretly I had a "girlfriend." Well, more like a "special friend." That was our way of saying we had a girlfriend without being in sin. My relationship was STRAINED at points because we were trying to explore our relationship but at the same we were told our teenage curiousity was a sin.

Now, I see some of the people who were in the youth minsitry at the time and in regards to relationships, many of them went crazy because they were relationally stunted. They were forced think like adults (and instead of dating prepare for marriage) while we were teenagers and when they became adults, relationally they were teenagers. So they went wild and it took a few years for their relational IQ to catch up. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think a 12 year old should date. But I don't think we should give the same advice to 12 year olds that we give 18 year olds about dating.

That's just one of MANY examples I could use. Listen, we pastor YOUTH. So let's pastor them where they are. Let's teach them to navigate teenage issues as teenagers equipped with scripture. "Train up a child in the way that he should go so that when he GETS older he won't depart from it." Notice when he GETS older, not when we make him older.

Thoughts?

3 comments:

suzannekane06 said...

I am feeling everything your saying! Youth is youth and that's how they figure out what kind of person God made them. they make mistakes just like we do. sometimes we forget what it's like to be young. we assume that because we told them all the stuff we know that they will not make the same mistakes.....not true at all. we HAVE to reassure them that God's love is without limits even in their mistakes. Thanks for the message, it reminded me of some things.

Brian Becker said...

Hey there, I enjoy reading your blog! I've got to say that this past one stirs up mixed emotions for me. I've been a youth pastor for 10 years, and I've seen people take two extremes on letting youth be YOUTH. On one side, leaders let almost everything go with the thoughts that they don't want to offend or treat them like adults, while on the other side I've seen a strictness that makes teenagers think that laughing is practically a sin!

I always tell our students about Ecclesiastes 11:9 that says "Young man, it's wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do."

It gives them permission to be young and have fun, but also puts a serious side to the decisions they make. I think we should always push them towards SPIRITUAL maturity, while allowing them to grow out of their funny querks at teenage pace.

Steve "The Czar" Patton said...

Suzanne that's for the comment. Good vids of the Awakening by the way ;-)

Brian, great comment! That's exactly the point I was hoping to make. I don't believe we should let kids go crazy and just say "Kids will be kids." The last line of your comment is what I precisely what I was trying to say. Spiritual maturity is the goal, but at teen's pace not adult pace.