On a Monday night a few weeks ago I updated my status on my Twitter and Facebook accounts; the update was something about the great time I was having hanging out with the high school students at Younglife. I’m honored to be a volunteer for my alma mater, my third year now on the team.
Upon returning home a Youth Pastor friend of mine had sent me a Facebook message. He questioned, “So, how do you battle the trouble younglife has with connecting teens to churches? Our local YL sees no problem and has no desire to connect teens to churches. Do you have an actual ‘Parachurch’ model working?”
Hmmm, where to go with that one? Experience and perception shapes reality, this Youth Pastor’s experience was that the YL leaders in his area want nothing to do with the church.
Each one of us will carry a different viewpoint based on our perception and experiences. For the next few SMS posts (all this week) I would like to point out the perceived problems, from both sides and then the possible partnership and solutions that could come out of it.
Let me start by saying, I feel qualified to speak to this issue; I am one who heard the Gospel and trusted Christ through the ministry of Younglife. I have been involved as a volunteer leader for two different seasons and spoken many-many times as a guest speaker and volunteer leader. I have been to YL camps on the program side, speaking side, staffing side and as a leader of kids. On the flip side; I got involved with a youth group my senior year in high school, then I was a Youth Pastor for 16 years and feel I know the “church” side of Youth Minstry pretty in depth as well.
I have “felt” both sides of the spectrum:
- I’ve been the Youth Pastor who wished the Parachurch leader (in one case YFC, another case Younglife) would better partner with us, the local church so that these brand-new Christians could grow in their faith through the local church. In addition I’ve seen parachurch ministry done where easy-believe-ism ruled and a “come to Jesus” was presented without ever mentioning the cross.
- I’ve been the Younglife leader who wished the local church and the Youth Pastor would take more interest in Younglife, get his or her students to be more proactive with outreach and quit thinking that all parachurch ministries “water down” the Gospel.
I am fortunate that even my own spiritual formation came because of the ministries of both the church and parachurch. Saved through Younglife; and then literally ignored (leadership transition led to not one person following up). I was fortunate to be invited to a great youth group and immediately was discipled by the Youth Pastor. I then attended a more church-oriented school (college) where “outreach” meant ministry to the down-and-out or out-of-country more then across-the-street. I did both the church and parachurch leadership thing through my college years. Through my years of being a Youth Pastor I have certainly had my own ups and downs in partnering with the Younglife and other orgs. I’ve made the accusations and received them as well.
Over the next few posts (and I’ll probably post each day this week until I feel I’ve exhausted this issue) I’ll take a look at the following:
- What’s Up With The Parachurch?
- What’s Up With The Church?
- What’s Could/Should Be
I am fortunate and blessed to be on both sides, to see the strengths in both sides and to know the weaknesses of both as well. My hope is that through this series of posts a better understanding can come about so that we all understand that there isn’t “sides,” rather, one body, many parts.