The words we use to describe what we do has a direct relationship to how our ministry is perceived by the congregation and the people we serve.
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My name is Ron deVries, and I will be your next Youth Ministry guide. I am privileged to walk alongside incredibly gifted Youth Leaders from across Northern Alberta, and have engaged in conversations about youth ministry with passionate people in many corners of the denomination.
Youth Ministry has been messy. It’s a new focus in the life of a congregation, arising less than 150 years ago, gaining significant momentum in the last 50 years. Recent changes in culture are also redefining what it means to be youth pastors. So what is the way forward?
The truth is, I don’t know what to tell them. I think “finding your identity in Christ” is a starting point, but the particulars of how that looks in everyday life are a very different story—which isn’t a very pretty, wrapped-with-a-bow answer to hand middle and high schoolers.
There’s no doubt about it. Many youth in this generation are leaving the church. But what if we looked at this as an opportunity instead of an outrage? What if it’s not the person of Jesus Christ that these students are running away from, but rather the claustrophobic nature of our churches’ four-walled worship?
I’m not going to pretend like I can relate to you as a youth pastor. I don’t have kids yet, and I don’t have the level of commitments you do as parents. But how about this? I’m a pastor, and sometimes us pastors get so caught up in “doing God stuff” that we forget to “participate in God stuff.”
When I tell people in the CRC what I do for a living, I tend to get the same question in response: Why? And I get it. I recently took a position developing a new project for the denomination: LEAP. Does the CRC need another program to solve problems that are certainly not programmatic?
A socially missional church not only aims to protect the broken, it stands to prevent the issues. And it’s my belief that we haven’t done an overwhelmingly good job of preventing issues because we’ve been afraid to openly or honestly talk about them.
One of the things I thought when God first charged me with this challenge was that somehow it was going to be so easy. It was as if I was going to walk into my Youth Support Team meeting and tell them how I thought things were sucking, and we were all going to hold hands, pray, smile, cry, and walk out changed and ready for a fresh start.
One of my most beloved passages comes from Ephesians 4 where Paul is instructing this group of Christians (who of course know their religion very well) of they way they ought to be acting. And in the middle of condemning them, he cautions them to watch their tongue, among a plethora of other cautions.
It is my belief that the church finds itself at a very interesting and pivotal moment in history. Moral questions have taken the most fascinating turn because secular culture is pointing the Church back to her own Gospel message: grace; forgiveness; inclusion; and most of all a love for God and each other.
One of our pastoral roles is to help bring our students into greater maturity both in their schools/homes, and in their lives. And with Facebook developing unwarranted drama among our students, we must stop and ask, “Are we guiding students through the land mines of Facebook feed?”