I’m going to be working out some ideas on my blog that aren’t complete. But I need to write about them. Even if they aren’t ready yet. As a writer, ideas feel like little brain children and it always feels a little scary introducing children who aren’t fully formed to anyone. They seem too vulnerable. They seem too tender. But I’ve got to write or I’ll lose my mind. And I sort of need my mind if I’m going to do anything good in the world.
So, here it goes.
I’m on a journey with youth leaders around the world, in every region of the world to discover, describe, and develop a movement that will leverage the influence of teenagers who practice the passion of Christ together. It’s my new goal in life. To collaborate with the Holy Spirt–and friends from as many youth ministry contexts as possible to find out how we can love more whole heartedly and how we can serve more holistically.
I’m bringing a couple of questions to the table. They aren’t new questions, in fact they are super familiar questions to me. But they are questions that I want to ask every day of my life for as long as I live–because I think they are that important.
- How do we help students connect with Christ causes?
- How do we respond to poverty and injustices in youth ministry?
These questions entered my mind after I picked up a curriculum called The Justice Mission. It was the first youth ministry curriculum that I bought (with my own money…i was so proud). It was the first message I tried to share with my group of 6th-12th graders. It was the only resource outside of the Bible that I continued to use more than a few times. In fact, I used it every year, and still use it today.
What I really wanted to know was if it would be possible to make youth ministry a justice mission? I wanted to know if the terms could be synonymous.
Could it work with lock-in’s and road trips? Could it work after over ordering ridiculous amounts of pizza? Could it work when not everyone thought it could work? Could it work in a way that would allow me to continue to work (ie. not get fired)? Could it work despite me and my many inconsistencies? Could it work when teenagers change their minds just as much as they change their usernames and passwords?
In my attempts to try to bring the terms together I learned a few things, including learning what it was like to fail. It wasn’t like there weren’t successes. I just couldn’t things to stick for long?
There had been seasons when we were really good at making space for teenagers to be able to be involved in personal ministry. I felt like there had been moments that had been intentional and influential. I felt like there had been moments when we changed behaviors to create deeper, more meaningful, longer lasting, compassionate experiences for teenagers in our groups. Even so, I would see the seasons change and sometimes the habits we had created would stick and other times the habits would wither like leaves falling from a tree.
A few months ago–I quit my job to go after an idea that would support whole youth ministry–the type that may exist now and then–but instead helping it to exist more now than ever…. I want to help youth ministries to be stronger in their mission and vision, to be places where humility, justice, mercy, and compassionate activities are happening on a regular basis.
If we want students to connect with Christ causes then we have to give them places where they can be exposed to the passion of Christ.
We are the connection, Jesus is the passion.
When students encounter the compassionate Christ, they begin to see that things aren’t the way they were meant to be.
Seeing things as they are–but knowing that they aren’t as they were meant to be–creates tension. It creates a question. We have to value the questions and be ok with teenagers who ask them.
We can turn holy discontent into space where holy movements grow.
It happens when we listen. It happens when we notice what’s happening. It happens when we lead the way.
Students need to know that it’s ok to be uncomfortable with the way things are.
Youth leaders need to know that it’s ok to do things differently than they have in the past.
Parents need to know that their kids ideas are gateways to their own connection to compassionate ministry.
I’m writing curriculum, developing events, talking to everyone who has done this longer than me and talking to college students who are just beginning to focus on youth ministry, looking at experiences through the lenses of leaders and teenagers worldwide–to come a bit closer to the piece that I believe is easy to lose in youth ministry.
July 2015 is the goal–to launch a movement that will bring some of these ideas to life.
But for now, I think it’s healthy for us to process things together, to chime in, to share where we are on the journey.
I’ll be teaching and talking about this subject at NYWC on Friday–if you’ll be there–please come and join the conversation!
How have you felt prepared to connect teenagers with social justice or compassionate ministry?
What are your dreams? What are your challenges?
That piece is our peace. It’s what makes us feel the significance of God’s steadfast love and hope for our hearts.
Since the day I met Jesus I know one thing for sure–that before I met him–things were not OK with me.
After I met him, I knew that they would be.
I knew that I could become whole again.
And I know that our youth ministries can be whole–just like our hearts that are hidden in Jesus are.