This is our last week of our Perspectives Month. It has been a huge success with some really great wisdom being shared by others. I know I have learned a lot, and I hope you have as well. Next month our focus is on summer camp, but today we are asking Pastors our month old question…..
“What do you want youth ministers to know?”
Chris Caldwell and his family came to Broadway Baptist (Louisville, KY) in 2002. He went to Rhodes College, the former version of Southern Seminary, and then did a PhD in New Testament Studies at Baylor University. He has a lifelong love of basketball, God’s favorite sport, and still plays, although swimming has become his primary form of exercise. He has a love of (but not fluency in!) Spanish, and has always enjoyed partnerships and friendships with Christians in Latin America. He and his wife have two sons.
Over twenty years ago now, I started as pastor of a church, and within a week or two of beginning, a youth parent demand that I go with him to the Personnel Committee in order to have the Youth Minister fired. He felt the man was incompetent and pointed out how he had failed to get his son actively involved in the youth group. I refused to do this and demanded of him that I be given time to sort out all this out. As I did, I learned that the man’s son had recently made a life-changing bad decision. Lesson learned for me? The man was aiming his fire at the Youth Minister, but he was really angry with himself and with his son.
All that to say this: I think it’s wise for those serving as pastors with youth to take a step back when criticized and try to see what the deeper issue might be. It could be as simple as the Youth Minister screwing up; it happens. But it could also be the pressure of parenting and the fears of losing children to the strong currents of spiritual apathy and ambiguity in our culture. Teen years are scary for kids. They are also scary for parents as they begin naturally losing control over their kids. Sometimes this can bring on near panic on the part of parents, and this panic doesn’t always yield wise decisions or a fair appraisal of a church’s youth ministry.
Angry people can be hard to see clearly, especially when they appear to be angry with us. But moments of anger can also be moments of insight for people and the ministers trying to shepherd them. Our anger can get us into a lot of trouble, but it can also reveal where our passions lie, and it can give us a chance to see what’s really going on. The Apostle Paul enjoins us, “Be angry, but do not sin in your anger.” Looking at anger through a wise and merciful lens can sometimes lead to real growth.
Bob Fox pastors Faith Baptist Church (Georgetown, KY) and has recently coordinated what is being called “The Best KBF Spring Gathering ever!”bio.
First, thank you for everything that you do! Having a minister who works with youth and their families helps me to better serve the entire church. Your training, time and patience make you an invaluable part of our church’s leadership team. Your commitment and love for youth who are in both the most formative and most difficult point in their lives (certainly their spiritual development) makes a difference. In the crush of the day to day, I know that this pastor doesn’t say it enough. Thank you!
Next, make sure you both help me and remind me to keep the youth in front of the church and involved in intergenerational activities. It is easy in a church to develop silos of ministry. The youth do their thing off somewhere and as long as no one loses a limb everyone (o.k. at least most everyone is happy). Help me introduce our youth to our senior adults. Help me identify the youth’s gifts and to brainstorm how those gifts can be placed in the service of our wider community. The church wants nothing more than to celebrate the growth and maturity of the young people who call it home.
Remember that there is the erroneous assumption among some of the members that you are the answer to all our problems. They remember different days when youth would come and their parents would follow. You don’t do youth ministry to put adults in the pews who by extension, the old logic goes, give money and help the church work. You do youth ministry that is significant in the lives of those you work with for no reason other than it is God’s calling. Don’t allow yourself to be put in the role of Savior of the church, that spot is already taken.
As a pastor, when I screw up (and believe me I do) everyone blames me. When you as a youth minister make a mistake it reflects not only on you, but on me as well. If it seems that I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to try something new, it is because I have a constant voice saying but what will so and so think. Drag me anyway.
Most importantly, we are partners in the ministry. I pray for you, you ought to pray for me. The church may have an organizational chart where some names are over others, but in reality we are co-laborers for Christ. When we work together, it brings joy to our relationship, joy to our church and joy to Jesus.
Sarah Jackson Shelton was called to be the pastor of Baptist Church of the Covenant (Birmingham, AL) in 2002. She is a graduate of The University of Alabama and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Lloyd, have two children. David works in New York City. Dan is a senior at Mountain Brook High School.
I would like for all youth ministers to know that the people of the church love the youth. At least at BCOC, we do not want them separated out from all the adults all the time. Bring them in. Let us know them by name and personality. Let them be a part of Wed night Bible study and Sunday morning worship. Let us mold them a little and give them experiences so they are prepared to be the leaders of the church one day. Let us give them a blessing on the occasion of all their rites of passage, not just graduation.
I love it when our youth lead in worship. From tennis shoes under their choir robes to those who exhibit poise and confidence behind the pulpit, I always learn something. They offer fresh insight to the scriptures with their questions and experiences, and their creative ideas often give us something to build upon when in worship. We have youth who serve on our committees as well. Who better to put in charge of Twitter than a 16 year old?? I always look forward to commissioning our youth when they go on mission trips. Finding some memento to give them as they go and then writing notes and cards to them while there just reinforces their important place in the church.
I once was asked to speak to a child about making their profession of faith. She came into my office and was in such “awe” to be there, she could not tell me one thing about her faith! It was then that I began keeping a jar of candy in my office so that children, if they see the office door open, know that they are welcome to come in and take a piece. Thus, one calls me “Pastor Candy!” As he has grown older, we have grown past discussions of which candy is his favorite and now talk about his soccer and baseball games. One day, however, these little conversations will lead us to the larger one of personal faith and baptism. This is a day that I look forward to.
Joy Yee became Pastor of 19th Ave. Baptist Church (San Francisco, California) when it merged with New Covenant Baptist Church, a community she had pastored for five years. A graduate of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Joy received her M.Div. in 1992 and was ordained in 2000. In addition to pastoring Joy has served as Moderator for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and has been a guest preacher for various events around the country.
First, you are involved in full-fledged pastoral ministry. Even though you probably spend a majority of your working hours (and how do you really calculate those!) with the young people in a congregation, you minister to the church. But I’m not talking about the fact that youth ministry often includes ministry to adults.
Sometimes the youth in a church are compartmentalized by age and perhaps seen as an appendage of the church, or a supply of future church members. I used to hear often, “The youth are the future of the church!” Without meaning any disrespect, I disagree.
The youth, along with the adults are the church. The present one. Right now. Which means that you are a vital part of the pastoral team. And as lead pastor, I need you to combine your gifts with mine and with the other leaders so that we can build up and shape the church as a whole.
Second, I need you to understand that one of my responsibilities involves tending the “big picture”, which means that all the church members’ and staff’s passions often meet (and sometimes clash) in my space first. It is my job to bring people together with God to see how all the pieces can fit together well, be modified, added or laid aside. I can guarantee that you will have a voice, but I cannot guarantee that your passions will be put before others’.
Third, we are all human. Church work is going to be gloriously messy and we are going to laugh and cry and get along and have conflict at different times. But we’ll be okay as long as we never question each other’s love for God OR think that success is greater than faithfulness. Be faithful to being a minister who loves God and people honestly. I will do the same . . . and I suspect we will be surprised where God’s grace takes us.