Professional sports is brimming with mid-numbing clichés, but every once-in-a-turquoise-moon an athlete says something that makes you think. On my drive home the other day I took a break from the depress-athon of world news to give my soul a little breathing room on sports-talk radio. I switched over just as the hosts launched into an interview with Steven Johnson, a young linebacker for the Denver Broncos. It was the middle of training camp, and Johnson was describing how much he loved the old-school defensive scheme installed by a new coaching staff.
Last year, Johnson said, he often felt lost in a sea of complex responsibilities. The old system made it easy to over-think his job. But now, he said, his new coaches had released him from that captivity—“disruption” was their gospel message. As long as Johnson disrupted his opponent’s offense, his mistakes didn’t matter so much. “Today I got a little ambitious,” said Johnson, “trying to make plays. And I didn’t do something the right way… But now our mindset as a linebacker is that it’s all about attitude. There’s not a lot of thinking… If you have guys flying around, chasing the ball, that’s when you can really see an athlete’s abilities.”
Johnson’s newfound “freedom to disrupt” got me thinking… What would the spirit of disruption look like in youth ministry?
- You’re an agitator, not a manager. The greatest misconception about effective leadership is that it’s all about managing people, details, and strategies. Of course, what we do is important, but[tweet_dis] our momentum is more important than our strategies[/tweet_dis]. Momentum that’s channeled toward an all-consuming mission will drag a lot of kids in its slipstream. The question is not “What are our ministry priorities?” but “What are we agitating for?”
- Your mission is to upend “rutted” ideas about Jesus and the Christian life with a “prophetic lean.” The racial tensions of the last few years have catalyzed a new army of young activists who are determined to disrupt patterns of injustice that have persisted through the decades. Their rallying cry is “Black lives matter,” and their slogan is “A movement, not a moment.” Author and UConn history professor Jelani Cobb says, “They put things on the agenda that people were not talking about before.”
Let’s translate this for youth ministry: [tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]What if disruption means making sure your teenagers are hearing and experiencing truths they’re not hearing anywhere else?[/tweet_box]
- What did Jesus say and do that your kids have never really explored in church?
- What truths does the Bible highlight that are uncomfortable to talk about in today’s culture?
- How have our expectations for the Christian life diverged from the example of Jesus, because of our cultural realities?
Explore these questions with your kids, and you’ll give your ministry a prophetic lean.
- Strike fear in the heart of your opponent. The Bible is quite clear: We have a “killing, stealing, and destroying” enemy who is intent on distorting our identity—undermining our foundation, so that our lives topple over and shatter. He’s a scary foe. But what makes that enemy scared of us? Jesus gives us a clue, when he tells his disciples: “I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me…” (John 14:30).
“Nothing in me” means that the “ruler of the world” can’t find any way to leverage Jesus. When we’re fully convinced, as Paul was, that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus—not even “death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing”—then we give the enemy of God no leverage in our life, and we strike fear in him. When Job said, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him,” he made Lucifer cower. What would happen if the kids in your ministry embraced Job’s bold statement as their own battle cry? What if the love of Jesus was no longer a concept, but an experiential reality for them? What if they tasted Jesus more than they studied his principles?