I’ve just had another one of those classic youth ministry conversations. The one where a church member or youth worker is complaining to you about the fact that 10 of their best kids have started going to the new super duper youth group down the road. They are annoyed about this new “kid stealing” church or organization, and over months they have become so enraged about that church’s rudeness and naivety. “We’ve been here for years, how dare they just breeze in here like that!” Sound familiar?
I’ve had this said about a church or organization that I have worked for, and the truth is I’ve also thought it (and in a weak moment, said it) about another church or organization. In my wee country of Northern Ireland, I hear conversations like this too often.
We all understand how difficult it can be at times to pioneer and sustain a growing youth ministry, and anything that makes that job harder can be naturally viewed as a threat, especially when it’s new super duper church, another organization, or a new event run by an existing “competitor.”
What I’m Trying to Do
The reality is that it doesn’t really matter what is happening elsewhere in the churches of my community. My job description doesn’t change. I still have to do what I am called to.
So after this conversation, I began to think about what my job description as a youth worker. After minutes of pondering, my attention span was low that day, I came up with this. My job description is “to show the young people in my community who Jesus is.”
I have lots of other things that incorporate into that overall vision, but essentially that is what my job is about. That’s why I signed up for this job-it wasn’t for the money, social status or the champagne lifestyle. I have a passion for young people. I want to see them in relationship with Jesus and help them realize their full potential in life.
On a practical level, that means that I need to be meeting young people in their environments as well as creating environments for them to meet and grow. I want the amount of young people I encounter to increase all the time and I want the quality of relationship they have with Jesus to deepen. To do this, I want all of these environments to be filled with young people. I want young people who have never engaged with church to come to my youth ministry.
But they are all at this new super duper church!
Part of Something Bigger
One of the safest ways of starting a business is to buy into a franchise. This occurs when you pay to use an established company’s brand name or product for your business. You get the mother companies expertise, market share, product knowledge, etc and in turn you contribute to the company’s growth and popularity.
The overall growth and success of the mother company should be of concern to the franchisee who has bought the name. How the company is perceived by the public will determine the trade that each individual store will see, and ultimately your profit.
If that brand goes under, so does your business. If that brand becomes multi-national, your business will expand and you will have more success.
The Franchise Opportunity
God has franchised the work of His Kingdom among young people to us-not me, but us.
He needs lots of us to have to have the vision to reach the amount of young people He wants to see come home. The advancement of His Kingdom can’t happen through my youth ministry alone. If we think about that in a business context, it would sound ridiculous. It would be like Starbucks trying to be a multi-national company but only wanting to open one store.
You see I need to be a team player; I need to be thinking about the franchisor-the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
If I am truly concerned about God’s vision for young people, I would be praying for other churches and youth organizations in my community. Praying that God would bring young people to them, that He would bless them, and allow them to lead hundreds and thousands of young people into relationship with Him. I’d be praying for them like I pray for me and my youth ministry.
If I was truly concerned about God’s vision for young people, I would be happy that this generation was encountering Him somewhere, instead of getting involved in all the other traps today’s teenager faces. I would be happy that the new super duper youth group down the road was relevant to young people in my community.
The truth is the success of these other youth ministries in the long term will allow my youth ministry to grow further. I should be trying to learn from these ministries, gaining knowledge from their expertise, while trying to understand more about the young people in my community and reworking and expanding what I am currently doing for them.
My job in the Kingdom, as I said earlier, is to show the young people in my community who Jesus is and introduce them to Him. I really like my job description but the truth about it is-I’m not the only person in my community with that job description.
I could write a long list of people I know who serve in other churches and youth organizations who feel that God has called them to this vision. They are all going about their jobs in their own way, the way God has gifted to them. I would have no doubt that this situation is repeated in every town and city across your county.
The Truth About It All
The truth for so many of us is that we have lost the vision that called us to this ministry, and we have become too consumed with “owning” our young people and the glory that we get from a flourishing youth ministry.
I don’t own my young people, God does. He knows what is best for them. My job is to pray, help, and encourage them on their journey to Him regardless of whether they are in my youth ministry for 18 years or 18 minutes. I want to be faithful with what He has given me. I want to play my part in their journey and I want to play it well-but I want others to play it well also.
That is a tough task for me and it’s a journey I am currently walking. But I’m convinced that it is from this place that I believe our youth ministries will grow, our communities will be blessed, and this generation will fulfill the immense potential that we see in them.
I have never run a business before, and I probably never will. But I have to admit that I find the whole process very interesting. I am impressed by entrepreneurs who spot a niche in the market and turn it into a very successful establishment. I’m impressed by the pioneering spirit displayed by those who decide to start up businesses.
I am sure that running a business is challenging on many levels and requires a huge amount of expertise. So if you are wondering where I’m going with this, let me explain. I think that running a business is a lot like student ministry. There are certain skills and some basic functions that parallel how student ministry works. Here is a breakdown of how the Youth Work Franchise looks.