There are preconceived ideas of who “people in ministry” are supposed to be.This holds especially true in youth ministry. You can make the stereotypical list yourself, I don’t think I even need to name the traits.
The problem is that not all of us are capable of becoming the resident IT person. Others of us are rarely described as “silly.” What builds from this is a fear that we will lose our students if we “can’t be those things” that other youth people seem to be. We struggle with the concept that we just might not be good at everything and perhaps should surround ourselves with a team whose strengths balance out our weaknesses. Instead, we keep trying to be great at it all.
On top of this let’s say a new youth group starts down the street. They are in a church that happens to have more resources than we do. As a matter of fact while we are playing a 40-year-old Atari on a 30-year-old black and white television, they have an entire video game room replete with 90-inch mounted flat screens, the latest games and every gaming system imaginable. If any of our students start to go to “that group,” we think, “Well of course, how could I possibly keep up with all they have to offer. I am wired “wrong” for youth ministry, and they have a world famous youth pastor. I have no resources, and they can buy whatever they need. They have a hired person for every piece of their youth ministry, and we fear losing our one volunteer.”
Do you see the avalanche forming?
The challenge in this scenario is doing what we know is right, versus what we honestly tend to do. We know we should partner with other ministries. In the “Great Game Debate” article, I appreciated the comment that one person wrote saying they focused on discipleship and partnered with a local group that was better at games. However, why is it so difficult to embrace who we are, and perhaps what the Lord has called our group to be?
I had a friend who walked away from youth ministry because “she could never be as fun as other youth people.” Others have told me they are “too administratively minded,” to be any good with students. I hear youth people often complain about the church, or worse the “YoungLife-esque” ministry down the street, who is “stealing all of their students,” and they “can’t keep up.” We then accuse all the others around of us of being shallow or having what we can’t offer.
Then we play the “keep up game.” We attempt to be like those around us.
“I only have 4 students,” we whine. We spend all of our money on a gadget. Exhaustion overtakes us as we try to be something we aren’t. In the process we lose students anyway.
Don’t deny it. We have all done it in one way or another. See also the time I ended up on crutches from an all night trampoline event.
Why are we afraid to seek out a team that fills in the gaps of who we aren’t?
Could we partner with local groups who offer what we don’t?
Can we stop whining about what we “aren’t” and start to embrace who God has called US to be? Then celebrate it?
No matter how we try in our mega or mini church, we are never ever going to meet all the needs of every person. There are learning styles, personalities and preferences in play here. Sometimes we also forget the simple reality that most of our students come because this is where their parents go to church. It may have nothing else to do with anything other than that.
*Gasp* Could we actually be alright with our students being a part of our ministry AND another?
What if they do “leave” for another church? What do we do then?
The choice comes down to whether to be who we aren’t or embrace who we are. If we need to make a change because we have given up, well that’s something else entirely.
What are we going to do with this elephant that keeps us morphing so often we just might forget about students in the process?
What are you actively doing to balance your weaknesses against resource gaps colliding with what other ministries offer?
Let me know your thoughts,
3 thoughts on “[Elephants In The Youth Room] The "Other" Youth Group”
I appreciate this article, as it affirms something I’ve been thinking and praying about for a while- a more coop approach to youth ministry in our area. As you say, different ministries may have different aspects wired based on the resources available to the program, the leaders strengths, and their personal style. I’m older than most youth leaders, and have excelled (according to feedback from parents and our elder board) in the teaching parts of the ministry, but after 3 years at it I’ve failed to create any real personal bonds with any of the kids. I have their respect and I get good attendance, but they don’t see me as a person that they can talk to about their struggles, spirtual or otherwise. Case in point, I asked a younger man (less than half my age; my youngest child has 5 years on him) to cover for me while I was out. After only teaching for the 3rd time, I walked in to find him councelling a student about problems between them and their parents. This same kid acts like a cornered animal any time I’ve tried to engage in conversation, even though they have been with me ~5 hours a week for the last 3 years! I think a personal, approachable type of relationship with youth leaders is something kids desperately need, but not something they will trust just anybody with. I probably look and think too much like their parents do. But perhaps in a larger environment with more leaders bringing different gifts to the table, we could have all the bases covered, and then get back to disciple making instead of trying to become something we’re not.
I think this is so true that we need to take the “co-op” approach. I think you also bring a valid point that sometimes we try to be “relational” but every student isn’t going to open up to every one of us. However, I would also say- as an encouragement that I don’t think age has anything to do with it 🙂 Too often we think the students relate because someone is “closer” to their age. I think perhaps this particular student may need someone else- but that could be for a myriad of reasons. I am a firm believer that each of us relates to different students- but maybe not all. You know this- just an encouragement.
we partner with the local YoungLife ministry. We use their club meetings as our outreach to the community and they use our small groups for their campaigners bible study. we are in the same area/community and schools, we figured it works best when we work together. it’s really quite wonderful 🙂