My Student Ministry Stuff (SMS) blog post is normally a once-a-week post (typically at the beginning of the week), however, last week I was motivated by a post by one of my friends in Colorado. Jason Lamb is a former Youth Pastor who now works for a great ministry (Dare 2 Share) which is based just outside of Denver, Colorado. Jason blogged about the trend he sees in church-ministry. That trend being a marginalization or prioritization of teens in church. To summarize, he sees the grey-area shrinking (grey being a church that places some emphasis on teen, but not enough to call teens a priority and enough to clearly say that they aren’t ignoring teens).
My take on the subject is that emphasis and prioritization ebbs and flows in most churches. This peak and valley is often dictated by the leadership in the lives of the students. Whether lay-driven, paid staff driven or a combination, my own belief is that a church can/will see greater prioritization in the lives of the teens if/when the leadership to the teens become proactive in the prioritization. Of course, this isn’t fool-proof; some churches will still somehow kill student ministry and in other cases ministry to teens can flourish when it seems there is no plan at all.
As a church (and the leadership) begin to prioritize a philosophy of ministry instead of a personality and all of the personalities begin to invest in the congregation (by inviting them to participate in/with the teens) a third component for long-term prioritization emerges:
Prioritize and Publicize Evangelism. My own belief is that is pretty much impossible to fall more in love with the Lord without falling more in love with the lost. In other words, as the youth ministry prioritizes reaching out to their community, clubs, campuses and even those whom don’t know Jesus within the four walls of the church the rest of the congregation will NEED to hear about that. I don’t think anything infuses new life into a church more than hearing about NEW LIFE. Everyone should be practicing peer-to-peer outreach. As your teens fall deeper in love with the lost and begin to risk in relationship by sharking the Gospel make sure your congregation hears about that… others will begin to follow. Not only will they see that teens are making a difference they will see that youth ministry is much more than an entertainment stock-pile place. They’ll see it as Students IN Ministry, not just a youth group. Suggest to the pastor that students have the opportunity to share a quick testimony about their witness, get a volunteer leader to write a quick story in the church newsletter and prioritize these great proclamations of new life at ALL of your events!
Call me biased, but I FIRMLY believe that evangelism is the key to discipleship. As we (children, students, parents, congregants, pastors, etc.) love, relationally pursue and passionately share (not scripted) Christ crucified we are drawn back to Discipleship/growth. in other words living “THE Cause” fulfilling “The Great Commission” or practicing “Mission51” is simply the foundation for the prioritization of not just teen ministry in a church, but ALL ministry in the church! Your gift/strength/passion area may be more oriented to growth/encouragement in the lives of believers, but that cannot be done without the unchurched/unbelieving in mind. A natural bi-product of maturing in Christ is new life in Christ!
I am thrilled to lead a ministry (Youthmark) that emphasized this evangelism/discipleship model. We simply want to partner with the Church build upon the foundation that the Lord promised to be THE ROCK! We see it year in and year out, sending and host communities both growing their love for the lost and Mission51 enhanced both places! Praise God!
I believe that marginalization of teens may happen at churches, but I believe this can/should be prevented if we prioritize reaching out, become more committed to congregational exposure and relationship and build a philosophy that will withstand any one leader! Let’s prioritize!