Thursday, March 7, 2013

Youth Ministry Matters of Importance. . .

We had some great conversations around the table, in the halls, and during the seminars at last weekend's Simply Youth Ministry Convention in Indianapolis! They were stimulating, thought-provoking, and I hope profitable. I know they were for me.

Several of those conversations were spurred by the fact that we live in a consumer-driven and image-oriented culture. Where we spend our time, money, and energy is an indicator - more than our stated convictions - of what we really think is important. I can say that because. . . well. . . I know me. I was involved in a few conversations related to aspirations. Let's face it, our current youth ministry culture has morphed (sadly) into a world with a pecking order. . . primarily because of the stage that fosters celebrity and celebrity followings. In our youth ministry world, we're certainly not immune to the trappings of the world. During a late night option with my friends Duffy, Marv, Rich, and Chap, a roomful of youth workers fired some really really good questions at us. Some of those questions admittedly revealed the ever-present pressure to aspire to the stage, the publishing world, and other places that would allow one to make a name for themselves. While me and my aforementioned friends would all be quick to say that we never ever aspired to the task or position that now marks our ministries, I know we would all admit to that human longing for significance that's motivated by our own insecurities and fear of man. Let's face it. . . it's a battle for any human being.

That said, I thought I'd pass on some middle-of-the-night thoughts that came to me while laying in my hotel bed and pondering the questions last weekend in Indianapolis. My thoughts are a helpful reminder to me as I endeavor to live my life to the glory of God and in reckless submission to His will, as opposed to carefully crafting a life that would elevate and glorify myself. . .

First, make it a top priority to develop your own character. Think solely about God and His character. . . and the character He wants to develop in you. Then, enter into wholehearted pursuit of character.

Second, make it a top priority to develop your message. Go deep in the things of God. Study the Scriptures. Read widely. Be a student of the faith.

Third, don't make it a priority to develop your image and brand. In fact, let your character and your message yield the fruit that God chooses to bring. . . and let it happen in God's time. Don't aspire to anything but a deep character and a deep message. We live in a world where image and brand are job #1. What a sad and sorry world that is. I hate the language of "brand" as it's applied to human beings. You are not a brand. You are a person.

These are good reminders for me. I hope they are helpful to you as well.


xaven said...

As a first timer at SYMC and relative newbie in youth ministry, I have to confess that I fell to the trap and temptation of venerating speakers/authors at the very beginning of the conference.

Shortly after fumbling through a very awkward introduction and meeting you in the hallway (like Agent Colson meeting Steve Rogers in The Avengers... minus the trading cards) before Saturday afternoon's session, I had to spent a good deal of time wrestling with my desire to hear you speak versus hearing from God in that moment... so I left the session in order to wrestle.

Later on that evening, I was able to hear the conversation between you guys with a fresh set of ears and I have to tell you that it was pivotal for me. To see the genuine love that each of you has for the other while sharing the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will push you to deeper depths gave me a God-ordained push to do just that with some dear friends in ministry.

Thank you for the reminder of all of our individual brokenness and how tends to rear it's ugly head in youth ministry through our insecurities. Thank you for the reminder of our need for community that fosters growth.

Walt Mueller said...

xaven. . . thanks for your thoughtful comment. I can honestly say that just about nothing breaks my heart more our world of youth ministry than the veneration that takes place that should not take place. The culture of celebrity is horrifying wherever it exists. It's especially horrifying in the church. Perhaps the worst way this happens is when we seek celebrity. The fact that you saw this and processed it thoughtfully is admirable. Thanks for sharing!