Sunday, December 23, 2007

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Jasper Speaks:

Admittedly, this is not a new post. About every year or so I like to come back to this one to remind myself why I do what I do.

What Is Youth Ministry Really About?

I have asked myself that question so many times. Even several times in the last few days. There are some obvious answers. I know for me so much of why I am here today is that I have a call of God on my life to be here. I cannot achieve purpose without being in ministry. As I think about those days when I want to turn in my silly putty, smelly van and reasons to stay up all night, I simply cannot just walk away. So with that in mind I feel I need to figure out the answer to the question "what is Youth Ministry really about"?

1. It Is About Leading Teens To Christ

This seems like a no brainer but I think sometimes we get caught up in the activities of ministry and neglect this one. I offer a lot of stuff for my kids but I question how much of it really leads them to Christ. Of course I am speaking of evangelism but do my thoughts, actions and ministry lead even teens who are saved back to the feet of Christ on a regular basis? Does my example show them that Christianity is about a relationship? Am I displaying Christ in such a way that a non-Christian student will be drawn to know what makes me different?

2. It Is About Creating A Safe Place For Students

One of the joys of ministry for me is being with students. I love to hang out with them and mentor them. I also love to offer a place where students can be together in a positive, safe environment. I think a crucial reason Youth Ministry exists is to bring students together and help them walk side by side in the battle. Nothing warms my heart more than to see two students holding each other accountable and helping one another through hard times. That is one of the joys and one of the most important reasons youth ministry exists.

3. It Is About Helping Students Mature In Their Faith

I love teens. I am not such a fan of pre-teens. Why? I think it is because teenagers are just that small bit more mature than pre-teens. They are just a little more "grown-up". I am not under the illusion that they never regress back to their more immature ways but they are closer to be a "real person" than a younger kid. That being said I think that helping students mature in their faith is one of the seedbeds of youth ministry. Just as their physical and emotional life is growing, so must their spiritual life. It is the role of the youth leader to facilitate growing moments. I love the fact that God has put me in a situation where I can offer ways to make students "stretch". I love to see the light bulb go on over a kids head about spiritual issues. For me this happens so much on mission experiences. Students seem to grow and understand their faith as they serve. Of course in the area of spiritual growth we have to be leading by example as well. The spiritual stagnant will have a hard time leading growth.

4. It Is About Helping Students Find Their Place In The World

So often I find myself trying to de-stress my seniors. I try and tell them that unlike many adults they know, I don't expect them to know what they are going to do with their lives at 18. I expect them to be seeking out what God has for them and to take advantage of their youth and the opportunities that brings.I do however, feel that it is the responsibility of the youth ministry to help kids as they try and find what their spiritual place is in the world. I believe in the six years a student spends in our youth ministry, they should constantly be confronted with why they are on planet Earth. What would God have them accomplish in their lifetime? I think as youth leaders we need to be constantly trying to offer opportunities that will help them answer this question. We need to encourage them to take steps of faith and look toward what God has in store for them. I think we need to encourage them to shut out the theory that they are the future of the church and embrace their role in the church of today.

5. It Is About Helping Students Live Out Their Commitment To Christ

Sometimes youth ministry is just about being a cheerleader. I think one of the most important aspects of student ministry is being a listening ear. How many times have I had students who are hurting or rejoicing sitting on my couch and anxiously sharing their life with me? As youth leaders we need to be committed to taking advantage of every opportunity to point students to God's Word for the answers in their lives. We need to start our responses consistently with the phrase, "what would God have you do in this situation'.We have to instill in them the idea that the relationship they have with Christ is a daily thing. Something they need to come back and visit on a regular basis. They need to be desiring more than daily --- need I suggest moment by moment --- communication with Jesus. We need to encourage that and model it as well.

So as I ask myself what is youth ministry really about I see faces and lives that have been touched and changed over my 18 years of service. It is these reasons that keep me from dropping it all and working at Wal-Mart. It is the faces of lives changed and the shadows of the lives still to come, that encourage me to continue on in light of difficult times. You see, youth ministry is also really about me. It is about God working in my life. It is about God Changing me and using me to advance the Kingdom. He uses me in spite of my inadequacies. He uses me in spite of my sin. He uses me even though I am not worthy at all. He uses me because youth ministry is really about being obedient to His call. In the end, for me, youth ministry is really about the deepening love between the creator of the world and an average guy named Jasper.

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