Saturday, February 20, 2010

Balanced Youth Ministry

Over the years I've met and worked with many youth pastors and leaders. Each one had different strengths and spiritual gifts. One guy was a musician and could get the kids into a worship mindset better that most I've seen. He's great at leading worship but his teaching ability is lacking. Subsequently many of the kids that stick around his youth group also are talented musicians. His youth group meetings generally center around an awesome jam session. Unfortunately the kids who aren't musically inclined are mostly left out.

My spiritual gifts lie in the area of teaching and discipleship. I can get even the most reclusive kids into a lively discussion, digging into a spiritual concept for an hour easy. But I just can't lead a worship time and I really don't get excited about taking the kids on a mission trip at all. Just leave me home in my comfy youth room teaching kids to deepen their faith and understanding of the Bible. I console myself by focusing on how admirable this goal is but I know in my heart that the kids need to be exposed to all of the aspects of their faith.

Another youth pastor acquaintance is an evangelist, and he's really good at it. From his perspective youth ministry is all about evangelism and mission trips. In fact he believes that we should "Burn Our Youth Rooms." He see's little value in having a safe place to call home. We should all be out bringing our faith to the unchurched. The rest of youth ministry is a waste of time and resources.

In one worst case scenario I witnessed a youth leader decide that to learn outreach the youth group would do a worship service at the local nursing home once a month. This was really motivated by her desire to provide a Christian worship time for her mother who lived there. At the end of the worship time it was suggested that the kids wheel the old folk back to their rooms and engage in conversation along the way. Doing as directed, two teens headed down a long corridor and into a room with one senile resident. It turned out to be the wrong room and the old woman freaked. I found the girls later in tears hiding in the church van. Even though the nursing home was staffed by many lovely service minded young adults these two teens had been forced into a situation way outside of their comfort zone. They stopped attending the youth group. These two girls could not be accused of attending just for the fun and games. I knew them to be true Christians and they had some magnificent spiritual gifts. Just not the kind needed to be good in a nursing home.

There must be some balance in youth ministry to avoid a lopsided focus on just one aspect of our faith. In researching just what a balanced youth ministry is I've found that every authority I investigated has different ideas. I was hoping to find a well excepted, bullet point list of five or so things with which to insure that my ministry is well rounded. Well, it doesn't seem to be that easy. Oh, there are bullet point lists alright but they too are weighted to support the focus of the particular ministry from which the list comes.

In general I've come to believe that any well rounded ministry should have an element of worship, service, relationships, evangelism, and giving. Some have stated this as: knowing, relating, growing, serving, and sharing. Another ministry lists: emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social as their aspects of a balanced youth ministry. Still another, in it's mission statement, gives these points: evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, worship, and ministry. At least they all have five points. All, not surprisingly, were well Biblically supported.

Perhaps there really isn't the golden bullet point list that will apply to all youth ministry. The problem of an unbalanced ministry might stem from the unrecognized self-centeredness of the leader. If we apply only our spiritual gifts to our ministry we are giving no real thought to the needs of the kids we are ministering to. In addition, it might be more advisable to focus on the needs of the specific kids in our particular youth group than to think that all young Christians everywhere need the same balanced approach.

There are many varied spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit gives them out as He determines. No one gets them all but some get more than others. Within a body of believers all of the spiritual gits needed for the continuation of the faith will be present. See my teen Bible lesson: Spiritual Gifts Or Super Powers for a more complete understanding of spiritual gifts. Giving a Spiritual Gift Assessment to the kids is a good idea to understand the talents of your group. I think that a youth ministry should be tailored to support, grow, and encourage the gifts of the kids in the group. If you do not have the necessary talents within your particular set of spiritual gifts chances are that someone in your churches body has the gifts and talents you need to get the job done.

As I get to know the kids in my current youth group I am consistently amazed by their talents. While planning next summers camping retreat I have found a worship leader within the group. I will look at the parents to fill some other needs as well. I am confident that I will find all of the talent I need to pull off the ministry this group of kids need. It might not be exactly balanced but it will be exactly what they need to grow into the best Christian adults they can be.