We end our month reflecting on big questions this week. It has been a really rewarding month getting to read everyone’s thoughts on these subjects. Today we focus on…
“What does the church need from youth ministry?”
Tim Schindler serves as the Associate Pastor of Youth and Ministry Development at Georgetown Baptist Church in Georgetown, Kentucky where he lives with his wife and four awesome kids. He studied at the University of Kentucky and Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY and has been in youth ministry for 17 years, with the last eight at GBC. In addition to student ministry, Tim also leads the church’s contemporary worship music. Follow him on Twitter @timschindler.
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the question, “What does the church need from youth ministry?” is this verse from 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
Sometimes I feel like youth ministry is well-suited to play the role of prophet within our faith communities.
Here’s what I mean: In the Old Testament Scriptures, we often see the Lord working through people, sometimes in specifically named spiritual leadership roles. There were the priests who stand before the people of God making sacrifices and maintaining an ongoing, right relationship between them. There were the judges and kings who provided administrative leadership for the people of God, making decisions and ordering community. And then there were the prophets—holy trouble makers.
In Scripture we find the prophets as God’s mouthpiece for addressing the heart and actions of the people in a way that would spark imagination and provide an alternate vision for living faithful lives. Not only through their words, but often more powerfully through their actions, the prophets were instigators for change within the community of God.
Sometimes I feel like prophet is the role that youth ministry can play in the church. I have known several congregations where the first ones doing any real face-to-face mission work were the youth. There are quite a few churches where the majority of sharing the gospel to non-churched individuals is done by students. Youth ministry is sometimes the place where a more comprehensive and articulate understanding of Christian ethics is developed… something more nuanced than just “don’t do bad things.” And students often serve as a model for the rest of us of the kind of community that grows in depth and trust. Youth ministry sets an example for the larger body of Christ in living faithful lives.
The church needs this! They need the energy and creativity of students to help shake things up and drive the rest of us to move outside ourselves and find new ways to bring the love of Jesus to our world. Obviously there is a need for mature guidance, but without the youth having a significant role, I think the tendency is for congregations to grow more isolated and fall into a comfortable routine. This is not intended to pit youth ministry against anyone else in the church, but I think this prophetic role of holy instigators of change can make a powerful difference in the growth and impact of our faith communities. “Let no one show little respect for you because you are young. Show other Christians how to live by your life. They should be able to follow you in the way you talk and in what you do. Show them how to live in faith and in love and in holy living.” (New Life Version)