Monday, October 20, 2008

The "Trouble" With Youth Ministry

Mike Yaconelli was the co-founder of Youth Specialties. He spent 43 years of his life in ministry to youth, and 20 years as a pastor of a small church in Yreka, California. He was known for challenging convention and was an inspiration to many on youth ministry. The following article is his, and should be read and considered by us. He passed away in October of 2003 in an automobile accident.

The “Trouble” With Youth Ministry
(From the March 2001 YouthWorker Journal)

Youth ministry is dangerous. When you and I are trying to follow Jesus we’re going to get into trouble. Trouble making is what discipleship looks like. Our role is not to create nice, compliant American citizens ready to get a good job and have 2.4 kids. Our job is to introduce young people to the life-ruining Jesus who causes nothing but trouble.

Listen…if your church doesn’t have a rule made just because of your youth ministry (no soccer in the sanctuary, no orange punch in fellowship hall), you aren’t letting Jesus be first place in your ministry. Trouble is the youth worker’s middle name. Remember, all they can do is fire you.

A youth worker in our town was recently fired because he was reaching the "wrong kind of kid." I thought the wrong kind of kid was the right kind of kid. The elders insisted that youth ministry was not about bringing in the "riff raff" off the streets but working with the kids that were already Christians. I thought we were all riff raff.

A church where the ethnic mix was changing hired a young woman to work with gang members, who after a few weeks was successful in gathering a few gang members for a Bible study. She actually talked them into coming to the church building for the study. One night she was talking about Matthew 6:33 (But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…) and explaining that if you want to be a disciple of Jesus, nothing can be more important than him. Her words were, "if the gang is more important than Jesus, then the gang has to go. If your girlfriend is more important than Jesus, then she has to go." One of the gang members was so into what she was saying that after those words he reacted violently by throwing his arms back and saying, "Sh*t! It’s hard to be a disciple!" When he swung his arm back he broke a window set in the wall. The church leadership found out and was very upset at having to pay $26 to fix the window. They actually put the gang members on restriction and told them they couldn’t meet in the church room for a week.

I’m thinking to myself, "WHAT? WAS THIS CHURCH CRAZY? Any leader who can teach the gospel so well that a group of gang members understand exactly what Jesus meant is one heck of a teacher! I want what she’s got. But it gets worse. A few weeks later, the pastor accidentally interrupted one of the gang Bible studies. He sat down and spent a few minutes talking with the gang members. After he left one of the guys said, "Hey, I like that guy. Let’s go to church this Sunday." The youth worker decided to have the gang members sit in the balcony rather than with the congregation downstairs. When the minister came out and announced the giving of the peace, one of the gang members stood up and yelled, "Hey, dude, you are cool!" The entire congregation turned around in shock. After the service the youth worker was told not to bring the gang members to church until they learned how to behave.

Again I’m thinking, "WHAT?" The entire congregation should have turned around, stood on their feet and yelled, "Hey, you guys are cool! Come on down here. You could really help us since none of us can see or hear!" Then they should have given the youth worker a raise. They didn’t. She was fired.

Unfortunately, many people in the church are more concerned about rules, policies, and procedures than they are about the unbelievable, miraculous, spectacular, unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime event that occurs when someone starts to get well. When people get well, it exposes the sickness of those around them. Rather than getting mad, there should have been a celebration because a group of gang members miraculously desired to be part of the Church.


Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t easier for rocks to cry out in the presence of Jesus than it is for some church members to celebrate the "trouble" genuine youth ministry causes.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

You're Invited!

Next weekend, October 17 and 18, here at Eastview Christian Church, our ministry team is going to be considering that very question. In 2009, every single event, every meeting, every trip, EVERYTHING, that we do will be examined through the lens of that question.

The best part? You’re invited to the discussion. Here at Eastview, we believe that you love your kids more than we ever could. We believe that you have more sway in the lives of your kids than we do. You are the influencer. As a parent of two teens and one 10 year-old, I find that concept frightening. And because of the influence that you wield, we want and need your advice and input. So, come. With an open heart. With open ears. And most importantly, an open mouth. This is for any parent, church member or not.

We’ll start Friday night at 5:30pm with a meal. Friday will mostly be a review of 2008, a review of our events, meetings, material, our challenges, victories and struggles. You’ll also hear from our adult leaders, as well as a few students. We’ll end the night by 10:30 with s’mores around a fire pit.

Saturday, we’ll get started about 9am. For much of the morning, we’ll talk about the big idea, ““How can we get our students to examine their own understandings of Jesus?” Part of this conversation will be “dealing with difficult and disruptive students”. The balance of the day will be spent talking about our activities, our calendar, our budget as they relate to the big question. We’ll be done by 4pm.

In order for us to have the right amount of food, please let me know that you’re coming. You can call me at church (393-9570), my cellular (389-5384), or drop me an email ( I sure hope that you’ll take advantage of this time to invest in your kids and our ministry here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

If anyone ever asked me...

I thought that this was a great article.

From The Journal of Student Ministries:

"I would tell him that the youth and the elders of the church should be more connected; not treated as two separate churches. That the elders have so much to offer our youth; and that our youth have so much to offer our elders. I would tell him to let the two generations serve together – in worship, ministry and missions.

I would tell him that the youth have as many gifts and talents as anyone else in the church and should be involved in every area – from toddlers, to worship; from design to implementation. I would tell him that it is because of their involvement in the church, that they will respect the church; not reject it.

I would tell him that he should come to youth events – uninvited. To just show up - not to evaluate me – but to play unguarded with the students. That play can take on any form – from wild water games to ultimate Frisbee tournaments; from quiet, contemplative worship and meditation to deeply, engrossing theological debates. I would tell him that he is always welcome – I shouldn’t have to ask him to come. And I would tell him, that the students would think he is super cool for having the courage to come.

I would tell him that training the parents is his job, not mine. That it is his job to teach the parents the importance of the youth ministry and its events, bible studies, fundraisers and mission projects. That it is his job to tell them that the success of the students relationship with Christ is on their shoulders; not mine. It is his job to tell the parents that I’m not the enemy, and that I simply love their kids as much like Christ as I possibly can. And that doesn’t mean that I want to raise their kids!"