This is the third post in my series on The Church and The Parachurch. The basis of the series comes from question I received from a Youth Pastor friend in which he questioned whether or not our Young Life leadership was interested in getting the “saved” kids to church or not?
The first day (Tuesday) I introduced the subject and gave my background as to why I feel qualified to speak to it. You can read that post here.
The second post (Wednesday) gave the perspective of the (club oriented) Parachurch leader answering the accusation that they are just numbers oriented, don’t get kids into churches and water down the Gospel in their clubs. You can read that post here.
In today’s post I’ll attempt to answer from the Church leader perspective and defend the “rant” a parachurch leader may have toward church youth ministry. In the case you didn’t read past blogs, please note that the “parachurch” ministries I am speaking about are “club” based ministries that may look/feel a lot like a “youth group” but typically are geared more toward the unchurched (Young Life, Youth For Christ, etc.).
What’s Up With The Church? What you may hear from a parachurch leader: “The Church is only concerned their numbers, keeping kids safe and in their holy huddles; we never even see Youth Pastors.”
I certainly went through seasons of partnering well with the parachurch ministries and at other times I was the one lobbing some grenades (more the former than the latter). Like it or not and as I said in my last post, I believe that everyone should be concerned about their “numbers.” Numbers represent people and we all (church and parachurch) should seek to be the best shepherds of our flocks. There is a big difference between being numbers driven (just trying to get bodies into a program) and numbers-concerned (caring for the souls in attendance and trying to add more). As a Youth Pastor I wanted to see the number of people grow in our groups; this was not a driving force, but I do believe it is a natural result of discipleship (disciples who make disciples).
My “beef” with the parachurch as a Youth Pastor had to do the local parachurch leader not understanding how busy our church-kids already were and yet it seemed they wanted our (youth group) students at their local meeting for the sake of their numbers. On top of that they wanted our (Christian/churched) students to be “student leaders” in their club and that meant more commitments as well. I wanted spiritual/emotional health for our students; youth group, small group, Youth For Christ, and Youth For Christ Student Leadership meant a minimum of four nights out per week, before you factored in any other social, sport or other extra curricular activity.
I’ll speak more to this tomorrow, but I do believe that besides parents the church should be doing the job of reaching/teaching and equipping teens (and all) for the work of the Gospel. Parachurch ministries exist to come alongside the church and augment and enhance the ministry of the church, in essence it is an extension of the church. It could be argued that if the church were doing her job, parachurch ministries wouldn’t need to exist.
However, the church is not perfect. I was a student who trusted in Christ through the ministry of Young Life. I would not step foot in a youth group; but jumped through the doors of a parachurch organization.
As a Youth Pastor I recognize the fact that though I am driven evangelistically we had parents in our church who have more of a “holy huddle” (HH) mentality. Many who want their son or daughter “safe,” “in fellowship,” “memorizing Scripture” and unfortunately “not interacting with non-Christians.” These attitudes and statements certainly can give the church and youth group a reputation of not being very “safe” or welcoming for the unchurched. I certainly made effort to help give the “HH” students and parents a different understanding, while still trying to move forward with those who were more naturally drawn to the lost. In seasons this was successful, in the worst of seasons I was seen as somewhat liberal for reaching out.
To give comfort to the Parachurch leader: I believe MOST of the Youth Pastors out there have a similar mindset— they want unchurched, they want young believers, they desire to reach the ‘farthest out” student, but they also feel the pressure (named or unnamed) of the HH pastor, board and/or parents.
Last, addressing the idea of “seeing us Youth Pastors more.” I understood this to mean that the local FCA, YL or YFC leader wanted me to come to his/her ministry more often to reach the unchurched. Believe me, I would love to. However, like you, I am out 3-4 nights a week already! Youth Group, Small Group, Board and Committee meetings consume our time too, so while I would love to reach-out to the unchurched or help a brand new believer at that club get discipled, it could come at too great cost, especially after I had a family.
Though not all of the “issues” can be addressed in a semi-short blog series, my hope is to draw out some very practical applications for the church and parachurch in tomorrows final post on this subject. I do believe both ministries are vital and that the two can/should co-exist. Again, it’s about Jesus and making Him known, if we keep that as our focus He will be glorified by this One body coming together!