Let it Grow: Mission of the Church, Role of the Youth Pastor

Like I said in my last post, I’m convinced that God designed the Church with the Spirit-driven desire and the innate ability to grow in depth, breadth, and reach. So what keeps it from growing the way God intended it? I’m calling these obstacles “doors” that shut us in like the door that kept Elsa locked in her castle bedroom in Disney’s “Frozen.” Here are the first two doors.

The Mission of the Church

The first door that keeps our youth ministries (and churches) from growing is a misunderstanding of the mission of the Church.

Isn’t it our primary mission as Christians to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)? Paul explains that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Shouldn’t our primary attention be given to the work of helping people become reconciled to God? Didn’t Jesus say that he came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)? Didn’t he say that it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick and that He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31).

On the contrary, it seems like so many of us Christians and youth pastors act as if our primary mission is to be good friends with each other…you know…intimate community. Many others act as if the Church is supposed to be some sort of fortress against the big, bad, nasty world and that we Christians have to fight against the onslaught of secular values. While others simply see the Church as merely a holy gathering of sorts where we sing songs, learn about the bible, and do some nice things for people.

The first door that keeps the our youth ministries (and churches) from growing is a misunderstanding of the mission of the Church.

The Role of the Youth Pastor

The second door that keeps the Church (and our youth ministries) from growing is a misunderstanding of the role of the youth pastor.

The primary task of the pastor (paid or unpaid) is to be about the business of equipping. It’s more of an attitude, a motivation, the driving reason behind what you do. Of course, this includes teaching, preaching, counseling, responding to crises, providing care, knowing kids, and building relationships. But it also includes resourcing, mobilizing, training, and coaching. It includes defining roles, discerning gifts, building and aligning teams. It includes articulating vision, sharing values, defining wins, and establishing a common language, and systems. And it includes unleashing the people to do the ministry.

Unfortunately, some youth pastors work primarily as a servant caregiver who is always available to his/her kids whenever they are in need. Other youth pastors serve mostly as the resident bible scholar whose mission is to take his students deeper and deeper in their knowledge of the Word. Other youth pastors place themselves in the midst of a community of teens as their spiritual director, simply facilitating conversations and discussions toward a deeper spirituality. Some act more like community service coordinators orchestrating various compassion ministries and projects as their missional communities serve their neighborhoods. And, many busy themselves with planning social activities and events.

The second door that keeps the Church (and our youth ministries) from growing is a misunderstanding of the role of the youth pastor. Those who find themselves in the role of youth pastor (paid or unpaid) must understand that their primary task is to equip others (adults, parents, and students) for the work of ministry.

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