Part 3 – Starting: making a new beginning wherever you are.
Where do you start with all this when you are a pastor or student minister? Here’s one thing that has helped me. Tony Jones wrote see an excellent, probing book (Postmodern Youth Ministry) where he drew on Alasdair McIntyer’s discuession of “practices” (Tony defines a practice as a “holistic endeavor undertaken with a goal in mind”). He then pushed the pause button and asked us youth workers whether our “practice” of youth ministry is helping us toward the internal good and goal of becoming more like Christ.
Great question. So my advice you is steal an hour or two away from the church, sit yourself down and look yourself in the face and ask this question: is my practice of youth ministry helping grow me as a human being and a follower of Jesus Christ? (Hint: if it will help, actually go in the bathroom, close the door, look yourself in the mirror and ask the question. Or ask your best friend, spouse, or a close coworker.)
- If the answer is “no,” you have some work to do. Sadly, hardly anyone is going to provoke you to do it – so put your grown up pants on, pray for wisdom, skim those categories above, and dive in with some evaluation and wise counsel on change. Personal changes can be made on your own, but structural changes and ministry practices need to be dealt with in community. Acts 6 is a terrific encouragement here on communal discernment: there are simply no shortcuts to growth.
- If the answer is “yes,” praise God for that gift and busy yourself with what Paul says in Philippians 3:9-16. Start praying and looking for ways you can encourage and support others in this effort. Make it not just your goal – let it become the goal of your leaders and students to become conformed to the image of Christ.
- For most of us the answer is somewhere in the middle. My guess is if you have some ways you can say both yes and no: I’m convicted on a few counts even as I write this. That is perfectly alright: this is a race, and it’s about enduring to the finish. Get out a pencil and a blank sheet of paper to make some lists. What’s going well that you want to keep? What habits need to change or go entirely? What new disciplines do you need to pick up? I appreciate the correction and exhortation in 1 Timothy 4 and 6 here. Go for it.
The call of Jesus is clear: “Follow Me,” he says to you – not in addition to the work he has called us to laborers in student ministry, but in its very midst. May God draw you deeply into himself.
For the rest of the series:
Part 1 – a rule for life
Part 2 – the smash-up: spiritual formation meets student ministry