Lately I have read a number of articles and blog posts talking about how it is time for student ministry to "move beyond pizza parties and games." The gist of these stories is that ministries need to be deeper and more significant and offer students a greater chance to change the world in the name of Jesus. Certainly for anyone involved in youth ministry this is one of your goals- to see the teenagers you serve develop a heart for God and a passion for serving others in Jesus' name. I have seen first-hand how a number of youth ministries, including the one at the church my family attends, have narrowed the focus of their programs to two elements- worship and service. And they could not have chosen two more important factors to include in the spiritual lives of teenagers. However- I believe such a choice can come at a cost. Here is my word of caution.
|Ski Trip Silliness!|
Over the years I can count dozens of students who arrived at our ministries just to see what the fuss was all about. They came because of their friends, not because of any great spiritual awakening. They stayed at first for the fellowship. Maybe they liked the music, or heard some teaching that made them think. They began to learn through our studies and small groups. They began to appreciate worship and service. They then wanted to tell others what they had found. Sometimes this process took years; other times it happened much faster. I remember one young man who never wanted to participate in anything remotely spiritual; he just came for the people, the food and the games. He eventually began to open his heart to Jesus, and his life began to change. By the end of his high school years he was growing in his faith and a true leader in our ministry. Today he is a pastor. Without games and pizza parties, the church would have lost him early on. And this is not an isolated story.
I guess the point of my rambling is this: Youth Pastors want for all of their students to know Jesus in a deep and meaningful way- as they should! But in your passion to see them all reach that point, you should not neglect the journey. Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that youth ministry is all about the students and all about Jesus- and not about us. Jesus loves us all where we are in our lives, not where we should be. And sometimes where your students are is at a pizza party. Should we pray for youth to love worship and seek God? Absolutely. Should we desire them to want to serve others and change the world for Jesus? Positively. But friends, please be careful that we don't try to get to those places overnight. There is joy in the journey...
And by the way- IHOP is the abbreviation for International Hamsters On Patrol. Right, Zach?
Because of Jesus,