Posts Tagged ‘Christian ministry’

Youth ministers are relatively new among us. I grew up in a pretty large congregation in Fort Worth, and we never had a youth minister. Occasionally, in good churches, the associate minister was assigned to teach the “young people” Sunday evenings before Sunday night services.

Glenn Owen, probably right out of ACU, had come to our congregation because we were going to support him as part of the now-famous Brazil mission team which was scheduled to leave in a year or two.  He taught us the missionary journeys of Paul, pretty standard fare for “young people” in those days, but especially meaningful because he was preparing for his own missionary journey.  Glenn went on to be a great missionary, elder, preacher, and finally, the voice of the Herald of Truth all over the world. He was certainly one of my first heroes of faith.

Youth ministers now have their own degree programs at Christian colleges, their own conferences, and their own social media presence.  But they don’t seem to be held in high regard. Let me tell you why I say this:

  • Youth ministry is seen as entry-level ministry position in most churches and is compensated as such.  Rarely are youth ministers part of the church leadership as a result.
  • Youth ministers receive the most sarcastic remarks on Twitter—usually from other ministers.
  • One prominent blogger/minister in our fellowship recently announced a series written by guest youth ministers—but it is anonymous, so that youth ministers can be honest about how they are treated by the Christians that hire them!

Would it make a difference if we believed that Jesus was a youth minister?  Do we need to be reminded of the strong language Jesus used in talking about children:

  • Matthew 18:3
    And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven
  • Matthew 19:14
    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
  • Mark 9:37
    “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.
  • Matthew 18:6
    “If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

So why do these servants tend to be under-valued and under-appreciated in our churches? See if you think some of these might be reasons:

  • Other gifts are more valuable to the kingdom than the gift of ministering to youth! Preaching is more valuable, administration is more valuable, eldering is more valuable . . . . I know they are more valuable because they are paid more and treated better.
  • Other ministry positions are not viewed as stepping stones.  Youth ministry is for guys too young to be pulpit preachers.  The good ones might get to move up in a few years to associate positions.
  • Youth ministers are sometimes the least trained person on the staff.  They may or may not have a Bachelors degree in youth ministry, but just by reason of experience, they are often undertrained. Too often they are not married, or just married and no kids, or young marrieds with babies and/or young kids.  All of their knowledge about young people comes from two places:  their own story at home and their school books. Both of those have great value, but you want to put your kids in the hands of a pilot that has just read about flying a plane?

It is no secret that churches are losing more young people than they are retaining!  Only 13 percent of them viewed religion and spirituality as important. And even among those who described themselves as Christian, only 18 percent said their religion was important to them (Taken from Thom Rainer’s book, The Millennials). I wonder if there is a correlation between our appreciation for youth ministry and the number of our children that continue to believe??

Wouldn’t it make sense to use our best, our most gifted, our most experienced to work with the people that we love most in this world? Shouldn’t those going into youth ministry have the best educational  tracks, the best mentoring opportunities to make them the most prepared people for their ministry?

And then, wouldn’t we support them well, so that they can stay with their calling??  Wouldn’t we hire them, hoping they would stay for a whole generation of kids?

Jesus said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).  If angels are God’s ministering spirits and the angels of children are always in His presence, then He must really care about the ministry to them!

Jesus was definitely a youth minister!


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Several ministers have responded to my last post “Can A Minister Have Close Friends?” commenting on the difficulties created by being a paid minister for a church. In general, their comments run something like, “When people think of you as their employee, it is hard for either one of you to be close friends!”  Or they say, “When people think they are paying you to do what they don’t have time or desire to do, they are generally not in a position to be a friend.”

Let’s think together about why these ministers feel this way.  See if you agree with these statements:

  • The “power” of an employer to hire or fire a minister makes close friendship almost impossible.
  • The “class distinction” between the ministers who are hired and the members who do the hiring makes a close friendship of equals almost impossible.
  • The financial dependency on the congregants to approve of a minister and his/her work never allows the minister to be authentic enough to form truly close friendships.
  • The common notion that a minister should be financially sacrificial, but the leaders and/or the members are free for unrestrained financial gain creates a tension that precludes true friendship.
  • The requirement in many churches of semi- or fully public disclosure of the minister’s salary creates both jealousies from those with less and/or condescension from those with more rather than close friendships.

Certainly there are exceptions, but isn’t there enough truth in every one of these statements to demand that we pause and reconsider why our churches are entrenched in a financial system that creates deep inequities, social liabilities, and fosters anything but a spirit of love?

I continue to believe that using a business/corporate organizational model —whether intentionally or by cultural default—is highly detrimental to our churches.  I’m talking about the elders being either the owners or the board of directors, the ministers/staff being the employees, and the congregation usually being the customers, with some exceptional churches seeing the members as unpaid volunteers.

Just limiting ourselves to the question of finances and friendships, I believe our churches would be better served and our ministers would not live without loving friendships if we used a family model for church instead of a corporate model?

Tomorrow we will look at the differences between a corporate model for church and a familial model. 

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