on this little convention promo lunch tour, i have an opportunity to share some kind of a ‘thought’ or ‘devotional’ or something. tic long, our pres of events, had done a handful of these already, and i’d heard he’d talked about fear of culture, and i thought that was something i’ve been noticing also, so this is mostly what i said, yesterday (and again today):
first, i asked people to talk at their tables about what the achilles heel is in their ministry — or, what our collective achilles heel is in the youth ministry world. what’s holding us back?
there was some interesting discussion. one helpful thought that dave rahn (youth min prof at huntington) brought up was that, at it’s root, the problem of kids leaving the church after youth group boils down to a theology problem, based on our theology of church. he suggested each church has a self-image based on their theology of church, and that works itself out in all kinds of practical ways. if you take some of those assumptions down the road a few iterations and years, you end up with teenagers who aren’t connected with their churches beyond youth group. i’d love to see a book on this, frankly: how a variety of ecclesiologies result in certain approaches to youth ministry.
anyhow, after some discussion, i suggested (not a ‘right answer’, just my observation) that based on all the input we receive from youth workers, and all the youth ministries i observe, i think our collective achilles heel for decades was arrogance. and this is still present; but i think it’s moved into a second-place spot, behind fear. fear has become a motivator for way too much of what happens in youth ministry these days. all kinds of fear: fear of parents, fear of church boards, fear of our little kingdoms being threatened, fear of our salaries being threatened. but more than all of these, i’ve seen a fear of culture become a motivating force. often, this is a roundabout fear: parents and church leaders possess a fear of culture, and youth workers instinctively know that if they play into these fears, they will get resources and job security and whatever else we desire.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship [and daughtership]. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (romans 8:15)
fear is a cul-de-sac. it might bring short term results; it might get donors to open their wallets, secure our jobs, and get people in our churches to see ‘value’ in the youth ministry. but it starves our souls, and sets our teenagers up for a lifetime of wrong-headed interaction with culture and the world.
then i asked how we could see our ministries embrace hope instead of fear. i pointed out this verse:
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God
this verse is — word-for-word — psalm 42:5, psalm 42:11, and psalm 43:5. now i know there are literary/poetic reasons this verse repeats three times in 2 chapters. but it also seems to indicate that it’s something we should really notice!
what would it look like for our ministries to be characterized as ministries of hope?
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