Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Youth Ministry Thoughts

Today someone made a comment to me about youth ministry and it's been stuck in my craw (if I have a craw, that is) all day.

The comment went something along the lines of: the youth group is always fund-raising, but it seems like they're never "giving back." The speaker went on to say that the youth are not presenting the Easter sunrise service this year as an example of them "not giving back."

That isn't to say that there won't be a sunrise service; it was just that the youth didn't want to do it this year, so I gave the youth director permission to say "no" ... and someone else picked up the service (it's going to be awesome this year).

The next point: fund raising. I agree that the youth ministry does too much fund-raising, but it's not like they are planning extravagant events. They are fund raising because their budget is extremely low. We are way under the benchmark for youth ministry ($1000/youth, including salary, operations, and ministry budget), so in order to do events (and to have food at youth meetings), the youth end up doing fund raising.

A lot of it.

Too much, if you ask me. Or the youth director. Or the youth themselves.

But to say that they don't "give back" isn't just silly. It's completely missing the point of ministry. When we're talking about youth ministry, we're talking cutting edge ministry. We're talking about kids who wouldn't otherwise be in church. We're talking about their friends who don't have church families, who sometimes hardly have biological families, who are meeting Jesus, who are thousand times more likely to accept Him now than if we try to reach them later.

Not giving back? Since when has that been the criteria for doing ministry, for pouring our hearts, lives, and money into God's work? I'm sure that's what Jesus said one Sabbath; "I don't want to heal that beggar, because all he does is beg, and when has he ever given back? When has he done service projects? I hear he isn't even going to be in the Easter sunrise service this year!"

Would we say about our shut-in members: "I would go visit her in the nursing home, but she never gives back."?

Would we say, "I think we need to shut down the nursery because the little tykes never give back"?

That said, the youth do give back. They come to Jesus. They begin doing ministry. They share Jesus with their friends. They build the freaking church. And when all of us die, the youth will be the ones left. Giving back.


Forgiven said...

This is the best response I have ever heard to a statement like this - kudos!

the Sister who doesn't give back (or maybe she does) said...

People who complain about youth "not giving back" don't really seem to care ABOUT the youth, do they?
Perhaps it's a bigger problem, those people who complain about whether or not someone is "giving back". Perhaps they're a little too focused on what they "get" out of things...

Rudy said...

I am glad you see it this way. I saw a mega-church in Greenville, SC that was started by a youth ministry. I saw a mega-church in Atlanta started by a youth ministry. They are giving back. I am just glad that someone poured into them not counting on a "pay-back." I am even more glad that the work of Jesus is sufficient and we don't have to (or better yet are not able to) pay Him back.

Big Mama said...

"Stuck in the craw" doesn't say the half for me!! No, I didn't "give back" when the ministers who taught me about Jesus did so out of love! I took all I could, but hope by now, I have given back by helping other youths who weren't as lovable as others--and some who were!! I am sure that others miss out on what YOUR youth do and never get recognized for because they aren't going around tooting their own horns too! And I could go on and on--but you said it much more clearly than I ever could: WAY TO GO "THIEF"! This is an issue close to my old heart! Keep up the good work.

WES ELLIS said...

I always try to balance two models of youth ministry; ministry to the youth and ministry of the youth. Youth ministry isn't just a way for the church to minister to their youth but it's also a way for youth to do ministry. Unfortunately, the budget often dictates what this balance looks like.

In a perfect world, with a huge youth budget, the youth ministry would always be "giving back" and always be doing ministry. Isn't that the best way to bring students to Jesus anyway? by inviting them into this extraordinary life of service and transformation?

But because of the budget, that dirty word, we often have to become a bit more inwardly focused than we'd like... we just gotta fund-raise. I am tempted to say "if you want to see the youth 'give back' then give them more money..."

Rev.Dulce said...

Sounds like the perfect way to start the budget discussions next year. If the church doesn't like the excessive fund raising, then a budget increase sounds necessary.,