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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Unforgettable Christlike Character: The key to successful youth ministry.

Kids, for the most part, won't remember your lessons much. Oh, one might remember something you said around the campfire if it happened to be a pivotal moment in their spiritual lives. One of my kids, now in college, recalled a weekend retreat as the funnest time of her life. Not actually a lesson. Actually a group did remember that a lesson entitled "Hippo-grits" was about hypocrites because I served them grits for a snack. They did not remember what the lesson was about.

What they all remember, however, is me and that I cared about them. In ten years how will your kids look back and remember you? Will your memory bring back warm feeling of acceptance and love or alienation and bitterness? Will they remember youth group as a place of loving support or just another thing they had to do to please someone? Will you be remembered as a person who had an authentic relationship with God or will they realize the person they remembered was just modeling surface Christianity?

How is your heart? Steve Camp has this great song called "Don't tell them Jesus loves them, till you're ready to love them too." Good song. Worth a listen. You can download it through this link.
teen bible lessons
Don't Tell Them Jesus Loves Them [Music Download]
By Steve Camp / Sparrow

Motivation to do youth ministry varies widely. Parents will often times become youth leaders out of necessity. Their kids are in the age group and no one else is stepping up. They marshal their fears and plunge in to do their duty. Their fear becomes evident as they take steps to ensure class discipline and maintain control. They get angry when kids act up. Sometimes they yell at them.

Professional youth ministers, those schooled in the art, may be motivated by nothing more than using youth ministry as a stepping stone to a senior pastor position. They design a program that displays their skill but has minimal personal relationships with the kids.

Some youth pastors who experienced an adolescence filled with aches and pains are determined to save other kids from the same fate. They would have enjoyed having someone care about them during that stage of their lives. However, their ministry might dangerously be more about meeting their own heart's desire for love than actually helping the kids. It's a short step to an improper relationship with a teen.

So what is the proper motivation for a youth leader and how do we know if we have it?

The mature Christian youth leader is deeply satisfied in their relationship with God and has no unconscious demands that the child returns their affections. An effective youth leader looks at a child and sees the enormous potential that child has to affect their relationships with sincere God-centered love. This youth pastor wants nothing more than to help that young person learn to love God and others. This motivation grows out of their own deep personal love for God.

If you are this kind of youth leader I applaud you. You will strive hard to teach your kids about God and the reasons he is worthy of their love. You will model for them a heart that is profoundly touched by the Holy Spirit. Your lessons, though they may not be remembered, will change the core of who they are. They will listen attentively because the want what you naturally display: joy, peace, patience, and love.
Effective youth ministry certainly requires accurate doctrine and sound Biblical knowledge. But it also requires a depth of maturity attained only by those who are honest with themselves. Dr. Larry Crabb, in his book Inside Out, says this requires a deep honest look inside ourselves to reveal what's really going on in our hearts.

Inside Out, 25th Anniversary Edition
By Dr. Larry Crabb / NavPress

You don't have to pretend you have it all together---when you don't! Dr. Crabb's bestseller encourages you to take an honest look at your innermost struggles and bring them before God. Only then can you be set free from them, and experience a truly fulfilling Christian life. This anniversary edition includes a new preface and final chapter. Includes a 12 week study guide at the back of the book.
Besides the Bible, I have benefited more from this book than any other. I highly recommend every Christian who is serious about an authentic faith reads this book. You will be able to model Christlike character that is unforgettable.


Bryan said...

As a youth pastor, I respond with a hearty "amen." You shared much wonderful truth. I'm not one of those guys using youth ministry as a stepping stone...I genuinely love the kids and I hope they realize that.

nancy hellams aka ohme said...

So very true. We need to make good memories for our youth so they will have those memories to lean on during the troubled times ahead.

Katrina, Sunday School Craft Blogger said...

This blog post really struck a chord with me—it's so accurate! The students who come back to me after years have passed since I taught them always say that they remember certain personal conversations we had or a gift I gave them on Christmas versus the lessons I taught or verses I made them memorize. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!