Monday, July 06, 2009

youth ministry: what's the point ?

Having read a few youth ministry books, the last few weeks have made me wonder what the essence is of youth ministry. Of course, one immediately think adrenaline, fun and lots of lean, athletic stars, leading hundreds, if not thousands of young people 'to the Lord'. I was there, but failed miserably. I simply could not keep up the show. The show couldn't just go on. Upon reflection and again reading books of some other failures in 'showbiz youth ministry', it seems to me more and more, that, also in our journey with young people, the key question is actually the same question as with adults: what does it mean to be a Christian.

Being a Christian for Paul was, some would argue, sheer excitement, lots of struggles, but also lots of adventures. These are the adrenaline junkie's staplefood. Paul lived in a time where it seemed as if these elements are the essential make-up of a bloodied struggle to get on the top. We also see it today amongst some young people, where they would give it all (and more!) and then they would say, with blood running down their cheeks, smiling through the mud: it was fun!

Let's however look a bit deeper at Paul's 'escapades'. After he left the people, (Acts 20) where he had a 'Red Bull' night out,an all-night-through-er, he met up and shared with the leadership the essence of his work as an apostle. This work for Paul entails much more then mere preaching and doing 'spiritual things'. It seems as if he simply focused on 1) nurturing deep relationships, sharing pain, tears, joys-sharing life. Everywhere he goes, one picks up how he seeks times of fellowship, he nurtures friendships and he is spending time with his friends everywhere. One wonders about ('Revisits'- Andrew Root) the notion of 'relational ministry', where it seems as if the point of his visits was not so much, to tell people something or to change them. It seems as if the point was to develop deep and lasting friendships, friendships that nourish new values, that transforms their worlds (both Paul’s and that of his friends). Even in the context of unstable relations amongst the Jewish community, where language ('die taalstryd')played a role, where new religious movements, in particular the way of Jesus of Nazareth, were causing deep and bitter divisions, Paul was trying to convince people of the continuities, the common grounds- he was trying to build unity, across languages, faith communities and even culture, as a goal in itself. One could argue that the goal of unity, amongst a diversity of believers was the goal, not unity for more 'effective ministry', or for reaching the 'unreached', or relevance- unity for its own sake. This reminds one of the words of Jesus, Christ: by this shall all men (sic) know that you are my disciples, if you love one another...

Next thing, ironically linked to his search for unity, across boundaries, Paul suffers. It seems as if, in his quest for deeper understandings of community, there is a constant reminder of suffering, of persecution, of being misunderstood. It seems as if the persecution of Jesus himself, haunts his followers as well. This is possibly not even a consequence of what they do or seek, but everywhere, and seemingly closer to the heart of the gospel, than we think. It is therefore no surprise that the Holy Communion is so central as a ritual in most (if not all!) of the Christian communities. It speaks of and identifies with the suffering God, who suffers in the suffering of the least of these bretheren. Its a suffering that, in and through the cross becomes redemptive, liberative.

In the third place, we see that this journey of Paul is in actual fact, his witness. In these difficult and trying relationships, in these painful, costly misunderstandings, which Brian McClaran and Tony Campolo call "Adventures in missing the point", there is a deep witness. This witness is a challenge to the powers, the empires of the day, be they church empires or political empires, that Jesus, the one who came to walk with ordinary women and men and restored life to young daughters and boys, the Jesus who died, violently, is actually Lord. That we find our deepest fulfilment in these adventures is no surprise, as this is the way we celebrate this life, with Holy Communion, celebrating restored relationships, celebrating in painful relationships, celebrating Jesus Christ. This is where I find myself and I often discover, this is where my younger companions also often find themselves.Hopefully this is the point, where we may find each other.

12 comments:

Mr T said...

Amen! Wens net ek kan dit regkry...dis lekker om te weet die kern van ons werk is om vriende te maak, met ander woorde, om te kuier! ;-)

Reggie said...

dankie meneer T..Natuurlik is daar 'kuier' en 'kuier'..

TDP001 said...

The church has left a gap in the coloured community specificaly, by allowing no direct link between Sunday School and Youth Services. It allowed the world an opportunity to grab innocent children to go astray and pulled into what they believed is the way of life.
Should the church want to redeem itself, Ministers,Reverends, Pastors should stop using the church as a stepping stone to get into positions of goverment,eductating themselves for their own purpose, and reakise their calling is to look at the people that are sitting in their pews and the community and to bring in soulds to the church.
The Bible has been the same from the beginning up till today and compromise cannot be reached to bring youth in.
And that is the message that "youth ministry should understand the bible is not negotiable.
The initiative can work,but not for youth to buy in to the programme, but to do so willingly as it starts with "I" the individual.
The youth are grabbed for years now by ages of 8 into a world of alcohol and drugs such as dagga, hashish etc and this needs to be reversed ad stopped.
Bring the family back to the church.
Do it for God and not for fame or status, but to uplift the name of the Lord. Grab the little ones at sunday school, going to youth before worldly things does.
I trust that this matter has been done in prayer and with God's blessing will succeed and save a community

TDP001 said...

The church has left a gap in the coloured community specificaly, by allowing no direct link between Sunday School and Youth Services. It allowed the world an opportunity to grab innocent children to go astray and pulled into what they believed is the way of life.
Should the church want to redeem itself, Ministers,Reverends, Pastors should stop using the church as a stepping stone to get into positions of goverment,eductating themselves for their own purpose, and reakise their calling is to look at the people that are sitting in their pews and the community and to bring in soulds to the church.
The Bible has been the same from the beginning up till today and compromise cannot be reached to bring youth in.
And that is the message that "youth ministry should understand the bible is not negotiable.
The initiative can work,but not for youth to buy in to the programme, but to do so willingly as it starts with "I" the individual.
The youth are grabbed for years now by ages of 8 into a world of alcohol and drugs such as dagga, hashish etc and this needs to be reversed ad stopped.
Bring the family back to the church.
Do it for God and not for fame or status, but to uplift the name of the Lord. Grab the little ones at sunday school, going to youth before worldly things does.
I trust that this matter has been done in prayer and with God's blessing will succeed and save a community

Reggie said...

Hi TDP,
That's quite a mouthful- but in many ways you speak to the heart of the matter: restoring the gaps between children younger people, older people, leaders, etc

fish said...

This is not a very easy task. The only problem that I'm having with youth ministry as a seperate identity is that we attempt to address issues at youth but our young people go back homea having to face the same challenges. The coloured community is saddend by the fact that there are no father figures home. How do expect the young people to relate to God their heavenly father if they dont have a clue a to what a earthly father is suppose to do.

We need to not only visit, but rather attempt to become part of their lives...

We should all take responibility as christian...

Reggie said...

...or accept that our lives are interconnected anyway and that we are already doing 'youth ministry' in our interactions and lifestyle.

fish and TDP,are you saying that the issues amongst the coloured young people are different then amongst the white youth ?

TDP001 said...

There is different mannerism in the way whites are raised and worship and other races coloured, black, indian etc. Whites have a more structured lifestyle while they are young and are open to opportunities that many other races are not, therefore making a decision as a white child is easier.
For a coloured, if you are brought up in hard ship you tend to follow that trend, and we cannot seem to get out of that way of thinking.

However the world outside has evolved greatly and the church has remained stagnant. Understand me that I am not saying the church should change to accomodate the world, but look at what the world is bringing to our chidlren, teenagers, youth, young adults and children and grow through prayer with the "comforter" to take the battle up for the souls that have not reached the graveyard yet.

Youth ministry is not easy especially in this community, but by planting a seed a tree starts to grow, and the time has come for the church to step out of its building and grow its branches into the community to the homes of its members and bring back what was lost.
Fill the bucket with what you have and not lose the wealth of knowledge and understanding your elders have.
Getting the parents back into church or letting them understand their is a christian movement that is going to impact their lives at home through their childs commitment to God.

Look at the effect of a prayer chain, if you send a message to one, that one sends it to another and before you know it a chain has been established, the response grows and more people start praying and talking about prayer and the word of God.As someone has said "Prayer is a necessary discipline in the life of every Believer because it authorizes God to get involved with our situations and circumstances".

Similarly the youth ministry and the church now becomes the custodian of the youth and where ther is a lack of a father/mother figure the church by its youth ministry has to support that youth and understand the problem at home and through prayer find ways of bringing a family together.

Look at perhaps a "brother" system where a child is allocated a church member who mentors that child. Obviously the church would have to be carefull in selecting its "brothers" and the "brother" need to be committed to the programme
Nothing is impossible if people see their is sincerity and not popularity involved.
Therefore when you walk people will see that this is a child of God, and see the Spirit of God and not look at the human being.
We are all planted in the same garden, the fruit and the weed, but slowly the fruit can outway the weed. Serving God is like marriage it involved work from various parties, and as marraige changes the the workload changes.
So its up to "I" to take up the mantle and move in the direction God wants us to.

Reggie said...

check out this link.. Andy Root speaking on what he calls, relational youth ministry

http://www.ptsem.edu/iym/cow/mp3/vol11/05.mp3

TDP001 said...

The link left one with thinking of how adults see children and youth and the role they play within a church. Is it one of teacher child relationship as we were taught in school or more of a relational ministry where the youth is allowed to express within boundries.
On the issue of confrontation it is found all over and we should not be afraid of it. As we are dealing with social,economical problems within our church and community,the youth will be confrontational as to what you the "church" can offer me that is better. Confrontation will be there and done in a christian manner one can learn and teach from one another.It might not work with the first attempt, but following up would lead to a form of success.
And as Fish... has said the reality has to be looked at what is going on at home...the home is broken and needs a father/mother figure so the youth ministry needs to support it,but should not look at it as stated a means to an end. But does the church know how many of its homes are run by youths, how many homes have social issues,what stats is available to look at the structure of our church household and take stock of what is happening in our own back yard.Then a plan can be formulated to work on each family unit as each situation is unique and requires different needs.The role is not to interfere but to guide and lay out a path to choice.

Which brings me back to one has to look and find answers within the bible. The book of Proverbs is a an excellent teacher of what the role of children,youth,etc was then and still is today. A perfect example is what is "wisdom",the book of Proverbs makes me to understand that one needs knowledge and understanding to gain wisdom.Therefore provide the programmes to give the knowledge and allow me to understand and become wise.

And as previously stated the youth should not buy into this ministry because its considered to be cool or there is a form of reward, but on the basis that mutualy we can come together and praise the Higher Power God righteously.
Thank you for that link Ds.
God Bless

TDP001 said...

Fish and Reggie...I read comment with regards to children going from a spiritual environment to a broken home.

Through a personal friend of mine whose parents were going through marital problem six years ago. The boy was 17years old.The family thought he could handle it as he was a man(a pure child-dealing with puberty emothions.)The rest of the family comforted the younger children,but the boy had to carry the scars to as he was aware of the problem before it became public knowledge, but had no one to go to.
No grandparents to take control of the situation.
This was a boy who went to sunday school, sunday church and youth to point, but although the church knew of what was happening in his home, who were members of the church congregation no intervention was taken to ensure that the children of God be protected from the trauma and their growth spiritually and mentally in understanding, how to deal with their family matter was priority.
Today a 23 old man does not go to church, smokes, drinks, comes in early hours of the morning. This was a soul that could have been saved as a church was aware of it.

Speaking to the friend i asked out of 5 friends how many of his friends have parents who are still married. Only 1. So what would the conversation be between these friends.
a) What is Love
b)What have I done to deserve this
c)How would you treat a relasionship which is
relationship
=LOVE
=relationship,
and we know GOD IS LOVE.
So what is my relationship with GOD like then.
d)So what does this 23 y/o feel about love in relationship to GOD.
I put it to you and a church.
1. What should the church have done six years ago for the children.
2. What should the church have done six years ago with the family, Im not saying fixing it, but intervente through the word of GOD. Has God not given you dominion over evil.
3. What can the church do now to save this 23 year old now cause he should have been sitting in a church pew today serving an relation with GOD.
4. What respect would this boy have towards a loving relationship.
Is this one family only. No there are many within and out of a congregation who deals silently with these problems and finds comfort in the world.

I am not saying he can do what he wants to as he has a responsibility to self as well and cannot always blame the world for problems, but with intervention he could have been saved.
I put it to you and a church, what should have been done.
" Come little children unto me...."
Let us learn from our mistake and correct where we can.
Saving one soul would have the angels in heaven singing and praising.
I put it to you "What is 'youth ministry: what is the point"
I put it to you, What should the church have done.
Why do we wait for the aftermath and the world has taken its casualties.
Let the ministry be about prevention,education,trust and trasnparency and loving relationships.
Let the ministry grow !!!

Reggie said...

Thanks TDP. That's a kind of a chilling story. We as churches and Christians often asume that everything is fine (amongst churchgoers) and then many years later our false assumptions come and haunts us. we have to repent as church for hiding behind our neat programs and then failing to 'see' people.
On your questions, I would think that youth ministry, must also be where friends, at school listen to the stories of friends, hurting, or when a coach or a teacher, see things are not well and simply be there in the midst of the muck.
So, we need human christians, who are different, caring and sensitive, amongst 17 year olds in distress. A lot more could be said, I know...
On the parents: like I said yesterday, we have to accept that families are under severe pressure and more often then not, we find many manifestations of families and how they deal with, 'when life happens'... I am more and more wondering, given the traumas families experience, that there is no 'perfect' or 'typical' family at all, only hybrids and combinations, where we need to support sensitively. The difficult thing is of course, also that people want to maintain privacy and we need to be sensitive to that. The nest we could perhaps do, is to be available and present, as far as possible..whilst still respecting the people's decisions (also to say no to the church). Its an ongoing journey of growth in love...
This is maybe what Darryl Guder speaks of the 'ongoing conversion of the church'