Why do I think and talk so much about systems, infrastructure, communications, process, curriculum development and all those other words that give every youth leader an instant headache. Why don’t I just talk more about loving people, building relationships, discipling teens, teen culture, the best ideas for games and activities, and so on – all the things that youth leaders love about youth ministry. Why do I work so hard at all the things that give me the biggest headaches?

It’s all because my heartaches for the thousands of people in our community who have no relationship with Jesus or connection with the church. It’s because my heartaches for the other 1500 teens in our schools who are not experiencing the community of Christ. It’s because my heartaches for the 4,000 college students and early young adults in our community who have no connection to the church what-so-ever. It’s because my heartaches for the deep lines of division between the Native Americans and the other ethnic groups of our community.

I love people, especially teens, just as much as the next youth pastor. I pour a lot of thought and energy into building relationships, caring for teens and their families, and helping people come to know, love, and serve Jesus. I just don’t write a lot about some of those things because plenty of other youth pastors do. Most conversations I hear from other youth leaders revolve around those kinds of things.

We can live, model, and encourage love, relationships, and community all we want. But, if we don’t do the additional hard work of building healthy, appropriate, organic, and collaborative systems, processes, and infrastructures in our local churches, we will never be capable of caring for, discipling, and equipping the larger numbers of people in our communities. Our churches and their leaders must embrace the reality of the headaches of all the boring stuff. It isn’t because we just want to get big. It isn’t because we like to sit at our desks or or go to a bunch of meetings. Rather, it’s because we love and care about people so much that we’re willing to endure the headaches because of our heartaches.

The following section was added two days later.

I wrote the above on a day when I’d had several conversations that stirred up my thoughts and feelings about the numbers of people in our community we (the Christian Church) weren’t reaching. So while writing, these were the freshest on my mind. However, I also want to communicate my willingness to endure and work through the headaches because of my deep love and concern for the people (students, parents, adult leaders, staff, etc.) who already belong to our church. Caring for them when they’re in need. Helping each one on their own individual spiritual journey. Respecting their need for thorough communication. Understanding their need for resources, training, information. All these things and the previously written heartaches are what drive me to be willing to work through the headaches of developing all the systems and infrastructure.

Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

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