SMS: Marginalization (part 1)

My friend Jason Lamb recently posted about a trend he sees in the marginalization or prioritization of Youth Ministry in churches (click here for his post). He believes that the grey area between marginalization and making Student Ministry a priority in a church is getting slim–churches are choosing to make (and invest in order to make) teens a larger priority or they are intentionally doing the opposite.

His post caused me to take a look at the churches around my region and the regions I visit as part of Youthmark. Jason sees this as a growing trend, however I don’t think it is a new or growing phenomenon, I believe we will continue to see marginalization, grey and prioritization–but I believe the players are consistently switching positions.  A church that today is prioritizing, may be a marginalizing church tomorrow.  The church of Youth-Marginalization that had a key volunteer begin to act upon her heart for teens all of a sudden can become the church of Teen-Priority.  Much of it depends on the hired help (or assigned leader).  Unfortunately the Youth Leader (or leadership) is often seen as the glorified babysitter, the “activity director” or fun-guy (read: fungi) who’ll entertain the teen-flock for a couple years.  I know this is not true in every church and I hope it can become not true at ANY church.

Today’s SMS is the first of a three-part series on this subject.  I hope the series will address a couple key questions every church (regardless of their current marginalization/grey/prioritization status) should be answering…How can our church be one that is prioritizing the teens? How can our congregation be one that avoids the marginalization of students?

Please understand that even a series of blog-posts on this subject cannot answer questions this large, I am choosing to write with the assumption that many of my readers are either leading or part of the leadership to youth in your current church.  I certainly don’t assume that because a church has a youth group that it is a church that prioritizes ministry to teens. This series of posts will come from the perspective of what the youth leader and/or youth leadership team can do to help teen ministry continue to be or become a priority.

Prioritize a Philosophy over a Personality. The Youth Pastor’s personality should not  shape the youth ministry, it should season the existing philosophy.  Let me start with a note to the strong-personality Youth Pastor: help create something that is much bigger than you!  I see it way too often, a church will hire a Youth Pastor because he/she is great with teens–this is a GREAT thing, however, that person comes in and creates a philosophy of ministry for the youth ministry.  Everything from terminology to methodology and sometimes overflowing to theology is dictated by the Youth Pastor.  A long-term approach to church-youth ministry should be built by the leadership of the church, not the youth leader (the current Youth Leader/Pastor can/should be part of that process, but not necessarily be the leader of that process).  Churches can begin to prioritize a simple youth ministry philosophy that is literally Youth Pastor-proof.  Allow the Youth Pastor’s personality to season the philosophy by his/her personality, but the structure should prioritize team, not just the leader.  A team of volunteers will bring long-term sustainability and prioritization of students that will not be dependent upon the  often-revolving Youth Pastorate door.

I’m excited about this three part series and had a REALLY hard time separating this into a three part series so instead of keeping with my usual Monday or Tuesday SMS, I’ll do an extra one on Friday to keep this subject on the burner.  Here’s the preview:

Friday: Prioritize Congregational In-Reach–bring the congregation to the youth first.

Monday: Prioritize and Publicize Evangelism–everyone has a story, they must be told!

Blessings on you and your ministry, may we glorify Christ as we seek to prioritize the things in His ministry!



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