Archives For Youth Ministry is Sexy


Please read the first and second posts in this series to get a grasp of what this series is all about. This is the last installment in the series and I would like to offer some positive things that have come from youth ministry being so popular. These are in no particular order:

  • RESOURCES: No longer do you have to wait for the latest YS or GROUP book to come in the mail but we have blogs, online resources and other ways to improve our ministries at the tip of our fingers. This is due to technology but also the vast number of youth ministers who have come bearing God’s gifts to network and spread what God has done with their ministries.
  • CAMARADERIE: It’s good to have fellow travelers on the road in ministry. I can share my victories and struggles with so many other men and women who have worked longer than I have and can be a source of encouragement for me.
  • KINGDOM ADVANCEMENT: I love what other guys are doing and I an so glad youth groups are in their care. Look, God’s kingdom is going to advance whether I am in or not but it is with the help of so many men and women who are dedicated in what God has called them to do.
  • LIVES ARE CHANGED: I have been able to be a part of a few students whose lives have been changed but little do they know how my life has changed because of them. I don’t mean “changed” in a warm fuzzy way but in a serious, never-be-the-same kind of way.
  • IT KEEPS ME ON TOP OF MY GAME: YM is not a game but knowing that I am replaceable (easily, I might add) keeps me on my toes. When I interviewed for this job in 2004 I was told there were 20 or so resumes that were submitted. That number would probably quadruple now if the position were to come open. I am not so prideful to think I am the only one who can do youth ministry here but I also understand that this is a good thing. For whatever reason, if I were to leave, God would bring the next guy in and his kingdom would advance. That’s not a bad thing at all!

I hope these posts have helped as it has been a journey for me to blog on this series.

 


Read my first post here.

I don’t think Youth Ministry (YM for now on) as sexy is necessarily a bad thing but bad things have risen from it.  I like to call it the American Idol Effect or simply, AIE.  AIE can be defined as the belief that someone actually has talent and can sing because of so many participants flocking towards American Idol.  Each year there are hundreds of people who just do not have the talent, skills and drive to have what it takes to be a singer.  For some reason no mentor ever sat down with them to talk about their gifts and abilities and that singing is not where they were needed.  It’s like when you go to a high-school football game and hear a student talk about how they are going to work hard to get a D-I scholarship.  You want to believe that they can do it but you know their talent, skill-set and drive is not what it takes to compete at that level.

The AIE is seen in YM in all over the country.  I have discussions with would-be youth ministers who are at college or seminary studying to be a youth minister and they want to do the job because of their experience of youth ministry in high-school.  At first, this seems completely harmless and is actually a good reason to go into youth ministry but the response to their experience is criticial.  On a number of occasions I have heard this statement: “I want to do youth ministry because it looks like a fun job and I get to hang out and go to some pretty cool places.” When I hear that I cringe a little. OK…a lot!!! Their experience in youth group is completely tied to external activities and they have yet to be exposed to the internal ups, downs, heartaches, disappointments, victories, planning, scheduling, praying, discerning, listening, confessing and forgiving aspects of YM.

People think, “Anyone can do YM” and the result is harm to youth programs, parents, students and churches all over.  I wish YM majors had some sort of discernment process to see if YM is where God needs them.  Sometimes all the cards point to YM and then for one reason or another it just does not work out.  I get that.  Yet, because the popularity of YM is at a high right now, there are more people getting YM gigs who should not be getting them.

Questions:

  • Do you know of a discernment process to help would-be YM majors distinguish if God is calling them into YM or not?
  • Do you think I am off in my assessment about the attractiveness of YM garnering, at times, people who have no business working with youth?
  • How can mentoring, interning, and other shadowing help in discernment of a YM calling?
  • What would you add to this discussion?

Tomorrow we will look at some good things that have come about because of the attractiveness of YM.

 


Please understand how I am using the word “sexy” and don’t misinterpret what I am saying.  Sexy has many definitions but the way I wish to use it in this post is as follows:

sex·y (sek-see] – interesting, exciting or trendy: a sexy project; a sexy new car (Dictionary.com).
I have not done any hard fast research on this but I wonder how many in seminary are studying for a preaching position versus a youth ministry position.  I have talks with people in youth ministry circles and there seems to be a real desire for college students to become youth ministers for churches.  I wonder why that is? Here are some reasons why I think youth ministry has become sexy:
  • Working with teenagers gives the chance for individuals to make a change for the church for future generations.  In a way youth ministry helps train the church of tomorrow (save your youth is the church of today monologue…you understand what I mean ;)) like no other position in the church.
  • There is not as much public pressure for youth ministers as there are for preachers.  Right or wrong the preacher is put under more scrutiny because his work is seen on a public consistent basis. While scrutiny is never evaded it certainly is less prevalent than a more public figure like the preacher.
  • Youth ministry gives the minister a chance to stay young. Most ministers won’t tell you this but I really think this is a biggie when it comes to the industry. I see it on blogs, in books and have even participated in it where youth ministers play X-Box, watch movies with students, dress like them, talk like them and even act like them. I mean what more could you ask for?  You get to play games, hang out, occasionally go to the office and go on killer summer trips.  I’ll let you decide if I am being sarcastic.
  • Teenagers are, often, more radical than adults. Does the name Zach Hunter ring a bell?  This is a big one as teenagers (as misguided as it may be at times) will do things radical if they believe strongly enough it. Talk to anybody who volunteers in youth programs and odds are they are doing that because a youth minister influenced their lives to do radical things.  Hearing a student change their lives radically and lead others is like crack sent from the Holy Spirit.  It is addicting.  See it once, and you want more.
  • Youth Ministry is sexy because teens have been neglected. My generation is very concerned about justice and for too long teenagers have been neglected and shoved away at the interests of ourselves.  Greg Stier wrote this in an excellent blog post entitled, “Why you should focus on teenagers“: “God loves to use the unlikely and underestimated to do the unimaginable. There are no more ‘un ones’ than teenagers. And God wants to use them, not later, but now to advance his kingdom.”
So why do you think Youth Ministry is so sexy?  What is it?  Why are so many people flocking to youth ministry positions and youth ministry majors at Christian colleges and seminaries? 
In the posts to follow I hope to flesh out more of the sexiness of youth ministry.  I want to talk about some areas where we can use the attractiveness of ministry to help the overall church and also some cautions when it comes to this discussion and some bad things I have seen because of youth ministry being sexy.  Please share your thoughts.