Young people need someone who is crazy about them. – Walter Brueggemann
The first youth ministry book ever written was Francis Clark’s, Christ and the Young People. Clark spent enormous amounts of time with kids. He studied them and discovered that there were certain things that they were drawn to in their adult leaders. His vision was to see the development of a robust youth movement that modeled the personality of Jesus. He was convinced that making his dream a reality would depend on recruiting and then training volunteer youth leaders to have the heart and skills of relational evangelism….
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. (John 19:38-39)
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had significant influence in the Jewish community and had kept their faith a secret all the way up to the day Jesus died on the cross. But witnessing all that happened that day and the last breath of Jesus on that cross changed everything. They threw caution to the wind and asked Pilate for his body. Then single-handedly in the light of day, they prepared his body for burial. Working together and quickly to lay him to rest before sundown (the beginning of the Sabbath), these two secret believers made their love for Jesus a spectacle. Joseph’s tomb was near the hill upon which Jesus had died, so their work to lay him to rest would have been visible to all.
We need more student ministry in North America and around the world, not less. I could blog all day long hundreds of reasons why youth and ministry is increasingly vital, but in this post I want to address those passionate youth leaders out there who either want to pursue a vocation in youth work or student ministry, or those who want to be a durable volunteer in student ministry years to come. I’d like to name a real problem and offer a solution to it. The problem is trust.
We live in a world where trust is eroding. And when trust erodes institutions and cultures weaken. The prosperity of any culture is dependent on how much people trust one another. And since societies can find less and less to agree upon as “normal” you see trust wearing away decade after decade. I’ve oversimplified the problem, but in my view if you want to bring transformation to your city, you need to work on building trust.
Now of course, trust first starts with whether we are trustworthy. No longer do young people trust a teacher just because they are in the “position” of teacher. Even further, just because your organization has a history of trustworthiness, this no longer acts as a filter for people to trust the individuals who work with/for that organization. And unfortunately this trend is even beginning to be imposed on the church. This may seem overwhelming, but the good news is that trust is rebuilt one person at a time. And you are a vital stepping stone to revitalizing the foundation of “trust” in your neighborhood, city, etc.
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
― Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC
Youth + International = Authentic Missiology
Crossing into other cultures (and subcultures) often raises questions. This is good for our theology. Theology is simply asking questions and seeking the answers to those questions in the Bible. Engaging in relationships with people across ethnic and geographic boundaries forces us to use our energy to think authentically about theology. I find this especially true among young people internationally. They have keen insights if we take the time to ask them. Relevant local theological development begins to happen when we engage in cross cultural missions. We discover new questions and we have to go to the Bible to search for answers.
For example, if you look at the past 10-15 years of evangelism among youth in Nepal, local youthworkers would tell you that it has actually been fairly easy and fruitful so far. But the process of helping them to grow in faith is very difficult. If a parent discovers that there child has become a Christian, they can become very angry. They may even stop their child from going to church forever.
Nepalese youthworkers wrestle with what they can do about this problem.
Jesus loved to hang out with outcasts. Here’s a PALS 15 Minute Devotional on Mark 2:13-17 that will help your small group of students notice others around them who are hurting. This devo will challenge your small group to do something obvious and counter cultural in your school to impact kids who may feel alone or unliked…
One of the highlights of my week is when I meet at a nearby cafe at 6:45 a.m., Friday mornings with my son and 8-12 of his friends who are high school juniors. All we do is drink coffee, eat cinnamon rolls, and spend 15 minutes discussing a passage of Scripture and how it might relate to their lives and their school.
Students are busy these days. I wish I could change that, but just like surfing… its not very effective to fight against the wave, it usually works out better to just ride it. So I’ve started using a 10 Minute Devotional format I call “PALS.”
If I had a thousand pounds China should have it- if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Saviour? -Hudson Taylor (circa 1900)
The church in China has been growing rapidly for many years. We know some things about the development student ministry in China but it is still somewhat of a mystery to the outside world. Yet one thing that China has a lot of is students. So what challenges will the Chinese church face in the coming decades as they raise up the next generation of young leaders? How will they provide the needed mentoring to grow the church and reach the millions of Chinese who do not yet know Jesus? Here are 5 current needs for mentoring among Chinese church leaders…
Non profits and churches depend on volunteers. A non-profit organization without a growing community of volunteers is like a ranch without enough ranch hands. Things break down and eventually the ranch goes belly up. A great vision or cause gets a non-profit started or a church planted, but without teams of healthy, motivated, volunteers to help, you will likely not go the distance. To finish what you have started you need a steady stream of volunteers joining in and remaining on board.
Volunteers freely offer to undertake a task. They want to do what they are doing or they wouldn’t be doing it. So can you recruit and retain more volunteers for your mission? Here’s how…
Burned out? Leaders who last focus on impact, not activity. Longevity depends on having the right motivation.
Did you know that the average tenure of a youth pastor is somewhere around 9 months? My friend Mike Dodge, with Canterbury Youth Services tracked the ministry of youth pastors for several years in New Zealand and he verified this statistic. It doesn’t take a rocket science to look at that number and think there must be some sort of a problem in the system.
If you invest in young people as a parent or youth leader, if you are a youth pastor or know a youth pastor, then this article is for you. I could suggest many reasons why youth pastors and youth workers on average don’t last very long in ministry, but I would rather approach this from a more positive angle. Young people in every culture and every city need committed leaders to pursue them with the Gospel. We can’t afford to avoid the topic of sustainability in youth ministry because it is one of student ministry’s greatest threats.
Leadership qualities like being humble, hopeful and vocal leave a lasting impact. Before you read any further, take one minute and think about 3-5 memories from your life that deeply shaped you to be who you are today. What were they? When did they happen?
This probably won’t surprise you, but recent adolescent research affirms:
Nearly everyone recalls adolescence more powerfully than any other stage of life (Age of Opportunity by Laurence Steinberg).
Why is that true about adolescence (ages 13-25 or so)? One of the reasons people have so many shaping memories from adolescence is that the brain’s last period of heightened malleability is during adolescence (Steinberg, 10). Because this is the last window of opportunity for the brain to be so radically shaped, we tend to remember things that we experienced from that stage of life. Here’s how you can make sure to leave a lasting impact in the lives of the students you are investing in…