I stumbled across this article from Rob Bell this morning entitled Courage, Communication, Contradictions: Rob Bell on Youth Ministry. Very, very cool article – I love what he has to say! Basically, Youthworker Journal (my first article ever was in Youthworker Journal!) was interviewing him about the state of youth ministry. Here’s a part that really jumped out at me as being incredibly relevant to my context:
The dominant paradigm in churches is production, not discipleship. It’s about how to keep kids coming—how are the numbers? In the gospels, whenever there were large crowds, Jesus gave a difficult teaching that thinned out the crowd. Over and over, He chose those moments: John 6—Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood. Nice. Very accessible for kids. There is a certain pattern where He’s trying to find out who is serious. Youth workers are put in this position where their paychecks are based on how many people they can keep in the place. When they read the gospels, they realize this whole system seems to be going the other direction. Many youth pastors I’ve met are promoting something they don’t believe.
They’re told by the senior pastor to encourage the students to attend the service where there’s a seven-part sermon on raising funds for a giant building, and kids don’t really buy it. At the same time, the kids are wearing a red bracelet and becoming passionate about AIDS and water in Darfur. So the youth pastors and the kids sit in a system that says the preservation of this system is the first priority, and they look around at these giant issues of justice that are demanding a generation to step up and do something about it; and guess what they do?
The problem for a youth pastor is that he or she has these gut impulses and can’t even articulate them, especially theologically or biblically; so the person is in this awkward place of not being able to say this in staff meeting because he or she doesn’t have pie charts and PowerPoint slides for it—just an intuitive sense that these kids are resonating with things and that we ought to be listening to these impulses; but they don’t fit into the paradigm. So, I would say the first thing youth pastors need is courage—courage to be holy men and women.
The part about asking kids to give to a massive building project (ours is over eight million dollars) while the kids are passionate about justice issues … that’s exactly where I live. Not sure I have a lot of comments at the moment – still processing the whole article, but wanted to put it out there. This is what I struggle with. The incredible ministry opportunities we will be able to do with this property vs. the passion of the next generation. Are we building and investing into a church model that is very different than the heart of teens today, who will be our pastors, elders and deacons 10-15 years from now?