…Not an activities director.
I am beyond excited that Antioch West is searching for a youth pastor! I worked with teenagers for approximately eighteen years before coming to AWBC to serve as pastor, and I genuinely enjoyed working with junior high and high school students through all those years. Some of those students grew to become good friends of mine, and there are several that I am very proud of for the men and women of God that they have become. In this past year serving as pastor here at AWBC, I have continued working with our teenagers. I have met with them on Wednesday nights, led in special events, counseled them, and taken them on various youth trips. In essence, I’ve still been doing most of the things I did as a Youth Pastor, and I could go on doing this for many more years to come and be very happy. But, I know that I shouldn’t do that. The time has come for me to turn my attention to other ministries so I can see the whole church grow in unity, knowledge, and maturity. Before I can do that though, I need to know that there is someone ready to step up to this essential ministry of our church. I need to know our kids and teens have a thriving ministry.
Differences in Ministry Visions
Early on in my time as a youth director (which was my official title for quite some time), I came to realize that my idea of what a youth ministry should be was quite different from the ideas of many other youth directors and churches. While some of my friends in ministry seemed to have the idea that their ministry would impact teens by entertaining them into the Kingdom, I desired to see a ministry with a deeper and more lasting impact. Frances Chan reminds me of the attitudes of many ‘youth directors’ in his book, ‘Crazy Love’: “The God of the universe – the creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor – loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.” This seems to be the message coming out of many youth ministries, that if your time in church makes you cuss less, stay away from drugs, refrain from sex (at least until after your 18), and don’t embarrass your parents/church/teacher/pastor, then you’re winning at this whole ‘christian thing’. That superficial sort of religion is exactly what the young people of America are dropping as soon as they enter adulthood. Statistics tell us that once they are no longer part of a youth group, 66% of young adults will drop out of church. That is why I believe the chief need in youth ministry is strong, intentional discipleship rather than Christian entertainment. We must make strong, Christ-centered relationships with this generation so we can train them to be an active, thriving part of the church. We must hand over to them a faith that is deep, genuine, and life changing.
The Role of a Pastor
I am looking for someone to join me in “equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ”. Those were the Apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesian church. This, he says, is what God gave ministers to the church to do. Paul went on to explain that this ‘building up’ of Christ’s body would go on “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:11-14). We live in a time when the students brought up in many churches remain spiritually immature, even for years and decades after their salvation experience. It is no wonder that they are tossed about by different doctrine during their early adult years. I want a Youth Shepherd (another name for Pastor!) to help guide our students in unity, knowledge, and maturity. I’m hoping God will send us someone who is willing to invest in the lives of students to not only introduce the Gospel to those who have never understood it before, but also to help those who are in Christ to grow in their relationship with Him.
A Vital Part of the Church
We often hear people speak of our youth as being an important part of the church of tomorrow. While that certainly is true, I would argue that it is also incomplete. Our children and teenagers are a vitally important part of our church today! We adults cannot witness for Christ in some contexts as effectively as a child can. I cannot go onto a public school campus to tell a teenager how desperately they need Jesus, but a Christian teenager can. Adults in our church may never be able to tell a parent that the most important need in his life is that he accept Christ as Savior, but his child can. Additionally, when kids or teens begin serving in the ministries of a local church, they bring with them an excitement that will impact that ministry and the congregation as a whole. These are not ‘second-class’ citizens of the church, but a great treasure and awesome resource that God has blessed us with. Ministering to this segment of the church often requires using some creative strategies, but it is an essential investment for the Kingdom. Please pray with me that God richly blesses our youth ministry and makes His perfect will known as we seek a Pastor.