Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Frustration with Current Youth Ministry

I was at the Gospel Coalition a couple of months back. Lots of pastor's who love the Gospel; the incarnation, the sinless life of Jesus and his obedience to death on a cross as a penal substitution for our sins, His resurrection that triumphed over death and the grave and the fact that He is seated at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf and that He will return again as King.That Gospel. Anyway, I met a few youth pastors, this is not a blog about them.

I felt a little bit like an outsider at this conference, although I was in a good percentage of the age bracket of those in attendance. Being in youth ministry and being a Calvinist (yeah I said it), proposes all kinds of challenges. Mainly because deep thinking and theology (of that kind) are not held in high regard within most youth ministry circles and the trendiness of youth ministry things are not looked at favorably among those who run in the "Gospel Coalition" circles. It seems to me that there are not very many Calvinistic/reformed leadership in the area of popular youth ministry. I have trouble bringing the world of Keller, Carson and Piper (for example) into youth ministry. I long for youth ministry to feel the weight of the Glory of God. And at the same time I feel like I don't have time to play around. Am I stretching my calling or do i need to suck it up and play a game or two?

I love to preach God's Word. I purposefully use the word preach because "teach" is not what I mean. I think there is an unspoken expectation in youth ministry to "teach" youth God's Word but don't preach to them. I have been "preaching" angrily on Sunday nights. My wife said that I have been saying, "you should" do this or that more than I have been salting my speech with grace. Some of that I admit was coming from a place of authority to call them to purity and accountability. But I wonder if sometimes I am too hard or bring heat when I should bring light.

This is my frustration: That there is the expectation that youth ministry should be fun and trivial and that young people cannot handle hard truths and commands from Scripture and meanwhile they are leaving our churches.

I am thinking out loud. Any thoughts?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mission: Jacksonville

Our summer mission team went to Jacksonville, Florida again this year. The green house on 24th and Pearl has housed us for another week. We had a few new faces and some familiar ones on our journey this year. Teresa, Alex, Jacob, Jarred and Abby were all new to the urban exchange.

Expectations were high this year as most were repeat missionaries. However, some things were not as clear as I thought they were. Cultural faux pas aside, we didn't submerge ourselves into the experience as much as I would have liked.

We did have some new tasks put upon us this year. As we took on a week of summer day camp. Learning to sing "Jambo" Swahili for "hello", and be ultra enthusiastic about it was a challenge. All of us were assigned different age groups of kids. Ages were from pre-K to maybe the 4th grade. Kimberly, Zach and Matthew had the youngest and largest group. They were amazing with them. Jessica, Alex and I were assigned the next group which had mostly boys. By day 2 I was ready to switch out with Teresa, who was way better at teaching and dealing with the youngsters than I was. I was a grumpy gus most of the week (more about that later). The next group had Andrew, Abby and our new friend, second mile intern, Harin as the leaders. The next group had Jarred, and another new friend, Nic (intern) as the leaders. The last and oldest group had Jamie and (thanks for praying) Ross as their leaders. Ross had his hands full as his group was made up entirely of pre-pubescent girls. He had his hair "did" differently every day.

We sang songs under the leadership of an intern; John. John did an amazing job with the help of his sound man, Garret and his "Hype-man" Jamal. John lead the songs and bible story times. Our group did a skit and they asked me to share the story of Jesus death and resurrection with the kids. John did a better job relating to the little kids than I did. I am positive that I over complicated the communication. But never the less the Gospel was clear to kids that week.

We had fun with the recreation. After Teresa relieved me from my group, I took her job as snack coordinator, something that is more my expertise. I had a great helper in Bekah. Jacob was on water duty, as he set up coolers of ice water for everyday. He did an excellent job getting the most important thing of the day ready to go.

We had devotional and learning times in the mornings. I am not sure what our students got out of it (as I write this I have not been able to debrief anybody), but I was overwhelmed again at how blind I am at injustice and taking care of the poor. I don't mean giving the poor a hand out, I mean being conscience of how I can help. There are already exsisting agencies that could use my time and my presence.

It was hot. The guys slept upstairs in what some dubbed as Sheol. We had a few fans, but it was just to push the hot air around. I would literally wake up because my pillow was soaked with my sweat. I only say this because I know that there are houses in that neighborhood that do not even have fans. It was difficult to get a good nights sleep. I was usually the first one up because I longed to take a cold shower and was awake from the pool I called a pillow. We made it through though. We really had no complaints. Mostly just jokes surrounding the utter hotness that was the upstairs.

I was angry in the flesh because of the lack of good sleep and I sinned with that anger as I let it corrupt my spirit. I was quickly irritated by some of the students actions and I let it get to me. I said some things I shouldn't. And to not let the devil get another foot hold, just know that I repented and asked specific students for their forgiveness. I don't make excuses, I sinned and needed to repent. 'Nuff said.

Jacksonville was different and the same this year. Familiar friends and yet we had other tasks and different assignments. And yet once again we came believing we were bringing the Gospel and God showed me again that it is I who is in need of the Gospel, still. I need the crucified Christ because I am a sinner. And I need to realize his resurrection has now made me a Saint that has the hope of the world, Jesus, living inside of him. I am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.