Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Your Youth Ministry is Failing - and You Don't Even Know it

What's a Youth Minister to do?

Since publishing my (Voddie Baucham) articles on youth ministry, I have been bombarded with questions from youth pastors who agree (in principle) with what I have written, but haven’t the foggiest idea what to do about it. Unfortunately, most of them go away disappointed when they realize that I’m not talking about tweaking a program, but changing a paradigm. This is not a quick fix. What we have is severely flawed at best. Thus, the steps necessary to change it are neither easy, nor pretty.

Step One: Update Your Resume

The first step requires brutal honesty. You are in a situation that is almost guaranteed to blow up in your face. First, You have a group of parents who have abdicated their responsibility to their teens (mainly because the church has taught them to do so). Second, due to the nature of your position, you may lack both the credentials and the credibility necessary to oversee a ministry to the parents of these teens and train them to disciple their children. Third, the fact that you have been hired as a youth minister means the leadership in your church either doesn’t understand, agree with, or support the idea of family integration/parental responsibility in the discipleship of teens. Or they just don’t think it is a realistic goal. They believe YM is necessary because parents cant and/or won’t do their job.

With all of these factors staring you in the face, you must realize that movement on your part in the direction of training, expecting and holding parents accountable to disciple their children is likely to be met with opposition and perhaps, the loss of your job. I have seen this on more occasions than I care to count. Many who attempt to move in the FIC direction are viewed as an idealistic, unrealistic, immature kid who hasn’t a clue about the way the world (or the church) works. Or worse, you will be accused of no longer caring about teens whose parents can’t or won’t disciple them (welcome to my world).

If you have children and begin to take charge of their discipleship (and back away from the ministries provided by your church), you may be accused of undermining church programs and setting a poor example for the members, and you may ultimately lose your job. If you work in a church with ministers who have wild, disobedient, rebellious, children who have not been discipled at home by their pastor/parents (who should be disqualified according to 1 Timothy 3:4,5; Titus 1:6) then you will most assuredly rock the boat and may eventually lose your job. If you grasp the controversial concept of education as a necessary part of discipleship, you will alienate the overwhelming majority of families in your church (and the school teachers, administrators, etc.) and most assuredly lose your job.

In short, it is very likely that any movement toward the family integrated philosophy on behalf of a youth pastor will result in the loss of his job. There are, however, a few exceptions. First, if you have the full support of the pastor you may not lose your job. Second, if you are a 40+ year-old youth minister with a track record of raising your own teenaged children and bringing them to respectful, theologically sound, biblical maturity, you may not lose your job (you’ll just be reassigned as the minister to families and be replaced by a 20-something). Third, if you keep the youth ministry in tact and use family integration as a program for ‘truly committed’ parents while continuing to act as a scapegoat for the majority of the parents of teens in your church, you may not lose your job.

Then again, each of these scenarios is likely to lead to the establishment of a faction of committed parents who see the fruit of family discipleship and begin to hunger for more. This small faction is likely to cause conviction and unrest among other parents of teens in the church who see them as ‘over zealous’ parents with too much time on their hands and too much interaction with and influence over their children (to quote a number of critics who have written in). Eventually, this will cause unrest, and possibly division in the church, in which case –you guessed it—you will lose your job. So, you might want to update that resume.

Click here for what to do.

No comments: