Over the next few days I am going to address an issue weighing heavy on my heart.
“Their Needs vs. Our Wants?”
I’ve been leading Youthmark for nearly three years now; one part of Youthmark is us trying to be a responsible business, it needs to be. On the other hand it is ministry; it needs to be. So, each year, as we set out to market our curriculum, our training and our trips we’re trying to earn the business and ministry trust of churches and youth leaders. We want to meet felt needs and provide the best stuff to help students be trained for what we call Mission51– training for the 51 weeks beyond the mission trip.
The hardest part of my job is the line between marketing to a group who may sign-up for a trip vs. getting teams to join us to meet the needs of the communities we’re trying to serve. In our western culture we’re so accustomed to “choice” that we have bargaining power; this mindset certainly exists in the church as well. Youth Pastors are looking to to meet the desires of many people (board, pastor, parents, students and self). As a Youth Pastor/Team decide on a mission they often consider:
- Cost: what’s included in the mission package cost? Food? Lodging? Transportation? Adventure stuff? T-shirt?
- Location: is it an attractive enough place that can get people excited to sign up?
- Leadership: is there an organizational staff member there leading the group so I’m freed up to be relational with my students?
- Results: what is the end goal for my students? If I want them to be more thankful for what they have, we may want to go “third-world;” if I want them to work harder we should do a service trip; etc.
At Youthmark I understand that these questions are being asked; but I struggle that these questions are the questions that sometimes guide the decision making process. What about the NEEDS that you can meet? Has consumerism of Western Culture now shaped not just they way we serve but whom we’ll serve and where? Is it just about the bang for the buck and the feeling produced?
The consumer thinking has certainly influenced the way that Youthmark markets, for instance: we want attractive literature – I would argue we have the best looking brochure. We want people to see the value in a Youthmark Mission Venture (YMV) – No doubt I’ll put our value up against any other organization and say that we have the best value. We have distinctly valued the Youth Pastor being the leader on trips, therefore we front-load all the leadership we provide through the Leader’s Guide, Spring Retreat and shepherding the relationship with the host community so that a college-age staff is not needed. If we’re looking at the consumer side of things, I really feel like what Youthmark offers is the best. BUT I don’t want to just be about consumer. I hope you’re not just about being a consumer… but balance can be had. Real needs can be met, real training should be done and a good time will still be had by all!
With all that said, I think a few of my next posts will be along the lines of Needs vs. Wants. I’ll start with snapshot of a need!
An email I received from a Pastor in North-Central California:
… as I told you before, we have many teens in the area, but few who would ever venture into our church; they just don’t see church as relevant. My heart aches for these students, they need the Gospel! My congregation is older, but they’re ready. They know their failures, they know the failures of their sons and daughter, heck, it’s their grandkids we want to reach… Brian, they’re here, they just don’t know we’re here!“
This letter is from California, but it could be from Anytown, USA!
Mission is needed overseas because the World does not know Jesus.
Mission is needed across the street because our neighbors don’t know Jesus.
However, we (the collective American church) typically see mission as “over there.” We lack confidence in sharing our faith; we fear rejection, we feel ill-equipped with the right things to say and more often that not, we don’t see our leaders, parents and pastors modeling it.
I’d love for you and your group to consider meeting the needs of the community I mentioned above. Understand it may not be that specific community, but I can give you a myriad of towns in CA, ID, NV, AK, CO, MT, WA, OR, HI, TX, LA, etc. who all could write the same thing.
In these small towns we equip you and your team to “do life” in that community (1 Thess. 1-2) so that concepts really are 100% transferrable back home. An average day in Ruralt0wn USA consists of service projects (meeting practical needs), often has some sort of children’s ministry (Sports Camp/VBS, etc) and always includes youth outreach at the local ball fields. Teens from the community show up simply because “you’re in town.” Your teens, by the Spirit, grow in courage and experience in sharing their faith. This transfers back home while meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs in these communities!
If you know of a church, a youth group or a youth pastor seeking to meet a need, I’d love for you to pass on our name; have them check out this preview and have them get in touch with me!