I just finished reading Tony Jones' chapter in Stories of Emergence
, a collection of stories from Christian leaders as they find themselves in the process and movement of beliefs, world views, absolutes and authenticity. Tony, student ministry pastor at Colonial Church of Edina (Minnesota) shares his story of becoming more of a program director than a youth pastor. This story definately connects with me, as I'm sure it does with just about any youth minister who reads it. Tony writes that the push to create the ultimate youth event (or program) came at a "cost to his relatonships" and was to the "detriment of his own spiritual life." Yup, me too. Oh, how many times have I missed an opportunity to listen or encourage a student because I was too busy or too caught up in planning or preparing for the next event. This is such a struggle in a large, established church. Which has led far too many of my peers in full-time ministry to go plant new churches or become full-time volunteers (read "quite youth ministry job; sell insurance; lead 9th grade small group on Sunday nights.) I am not a young, dynamic, great communicating, wild, crazy, "cutting-edge", innovator of postmodern youth ministry. Yet, somewhere deep down inside I feel God has a plan to use me to help shift this paradigm of youth ministry that currently exists in the church. I agree with Tony when he says the problem for us is where to go next. It's not another new model, or program, or even a new paradigm. And who is mentoring or exemplifing a new(or different) way of doing ministry?
The best thing to happen to my ministry in the last two years has been the opportunity to enter into conversations with other folks in my same spot. Others who feel like something isn't right with our current youth ministry assumptions and methods of guiding students to God. In my case that has came primarily from three different groups that I am abundantly thankful for:
One is a group of friends and fellow ministers connected with Sonlife
, a ministry organization in Chicago. A special group of Sonlife guys and gals has been some old friends who have walked with me as we tried to follow the steps of Christ in our lives and ministries. We have also tried to create an experience where students could do the same thing. YouthWAVE
is meant to be more than an event; rather a transforming experience (that is also consistantly transforming itself) that follows students through the other 51 weeks in the year.
Second, has been a couple of guys at my church and at nearby churches who have met regualrly to try and keep challanging and growing in context and community.
Third, has been the group of students I work with at Garnett. We have been on a journey together for the last few years, and I pray it continues. It is so cool to have discussion and interaction with students that is two-way. Relationships that allow for me to grow and be encouraged as much as I stimulate growth and offer encouragement. Just this week one of my ninth grade students challenged me to let go of my stress in the details of our Wed. night program and just let God work. Praise God that He has already humbled me enough to listen to Him when He speaks through the mouth of a ninth grader.
I hope one day I can write my own story of emergence. I hope God continues to make and mold me into a real student pastor. I hope I will never forget the view from this side of the empty tomb. I hope one day I will finally let go of my stress of the details and planning of programs and events and just let God work.