Programs? Perichoresis? How about Paychecks?………….Jerry Watts

Okay let’s get real.  For all the talk about moving away from program with a renewed focus on markers of mature Christian faith in the lives of youth, it doesn’t mean youth ministers are no longer going to plan events.  Let’s face it, people want stuff they can look at, put on a website, and invite their friends to.  And that’s not bad.  When I first read Kenda Creasy Dean’s book Practicing Passion back in 2005 she said she’s no longer planning the retreat, she’s just driving the bus and pouring into the life of kids for Jesus sake.   In the real world most youth ministers don’t enjoy that luxury, I remember thinking, yeah right – congregations pay them to plan the retreats, this doesn’t help most of us in the trenches. So how do we do discipleship rooted in the Word of God, in the context of deep relationships modeled by the Trinity, not lose sight of markers for mature Christian faith, and keep our jobs.

The truth is there are no easy answers and nothing really new under the sun.  In my context while we do less dodge ball then we used to, the red ball still flies.  The shift for us has been the investment in time into the lives of our volunteers.  We need to disciple Christian adults into mature Christian faith.  Share what that looks like (as the exemplary study describes for example) and then invite our leaders and families to first practice this path of following Jesus in their own lives.  Volunteer meetings are more about time in the Word, and sharing what’s going on in their lives instead of just covering the needs for the next event. (www.ymsp.org and their liturgy of discernment is helpful here)

Second, with our life teams (adults and families who commit to shepparding one youth to follow Jesus) our program formally prioritizes discipleship and incorporates that as part of our youth ministry DNA, we are only two years in – and only now seeing sprouts popping out of the ground from those seeds that were planted, it takes time and long term investment.  The point is to find a way to make it public (the priority of discipleship that is).

Third, we continue programming with excellence – rooted in God’s word, understand the language of culture, doing things that matter (like mission trips), and challenging youth to invest as leaders in that process. This step helps you keep your job and still work towards the larger goal from Jesus in Matthew 28 to evangelize and make disciples.

Finally, your ministry goes nowhere without the Holy Spirit.  Pray without ceasing.  In the office, with youth, with your volunteers, in your quiet time in the Word, in the shower, in your programs, driving to Starbucks, and in your Tuesday night meeting…PRAY.  Make prayer, fasting, and time in the Word part of your own daily routine as a leader and let that seep into the life of your ministry.  The prophet Zechariah 4:6 reminds us “it’s not by might nor by power but by the Spirit says the LORD”.  Nothing new under the sun, but a renewed call to be faithful to be sure – in the real world of youth ministry.

Jerry Watts lives to play dodgeball…er.. disciple youth and adults in Plano Tx.

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  1. June 2nd, 2010

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