Back at it! I always take time off in the Summer from blogging. Too many Camps, mud pits and blobs, away from home, and poor cell and internet coverage is a bad recipe for thought and writing. To start September, I want to review the Summer with a blog on the encouraging things that I saw across the nation. I was at nine camps in eight states, spoke with paid and volunteer Youth Pastors and Leaders of large and small Churches. And that gives me an interesting perspective on the health of Youth Ministry.
So, here are some noticeable trends in Youth Ministry across America:
Brokenness and Suffering
We immediately think that this is a negative. But, because there is so much hardship, suffering, and brokenness in the Youth of our country, we simply need to re-think. Whether we are talking about addictions, the sexual revolution, the broken family, or even the media out of moral control, today's teens are being raised in a sensual culture that has added to their brokenness. We must see hardship the way God does. To change our default when it comes to injustice, suffering, and hardship. Is God fair? Where does poverty, famine, and sickness fit into our lives. If God is so loving, how can He allow this and that? Our personal theology of comfort will have a difficult time with any kind of inequity in our life.
In the last few months I have been studying the Book of Job. Here is a young man who was righteous, was a noble man in the city, and had a large family. And yet, he saw so many things happen to him that were 'unfair'. But, you cannot just get ticked off while you are reading the beginning of the story. You have to read to the end of it. Where God restores everything back to Job and shows us that He has a purpose for everything in our lives.
A chapter that has been a focal point of my prayers is the 5th! One of Job's friends is talking to Job about how God uses chastening for His glory:
17 "Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty."
Every one of us needs correction. And sometimes that correction comes through discipline. You wouldn't think that hardship and difficulty would be a happy place. But, God assures Job that when the Almighty does the chastening, all things must be taken with a smile on our face knowing that His will in the end will be good.
This isn't something that most people would admit. Well, most older people. Just listening to the news and the proliferation of disunity and racism and violence and anger, you would think that diversity would NOT be a significant trend. But, one of the growing traits of this generation has become an emerging force for our culture today. With the prevailing racism and dissension in America, this younger generation is going to have a say in the future landscape of America.
To watch Youth Ministry across America with broad diversity and inclusion is very encouraging. There are so many settings in our country where gracism is exercised over racism. Where unity is more important than fighting. And where love is more important than anger. I do not believe that people are born racist. As a matter of fact, when you see the younger generation and how they exercise play, relationships, working together, and honor amongst race, you have to wonder when this all begins. And who is teaching adults to hate.
Simply look at my Instagram over the past three months. My social media has become a clear depiction of the swelling diversity in the Church.
A Volunteer Movement
The Church is the largest volunteer organization on the planet.
People ask me all the time what I see in the Church in America. I think it is because of this vantage point that I have from travelling. One of the things that I share most often is the percentage of volunteers who are running youth ministry. Most of the statistics prove that around 75 to 80% of youth ministry in America is run by non-paid staff. This is something that must be addressed. We cannot continue to haul water to the sea.
Let me explain. Most of the conferences, training weekends, leadership seminars, and books, have been written for the professional. Very few of these settings are cued up for the volunteer - who happen to make up the majority of leadership in the Church. If we do not raise the level of volunteer leadership in youth ministry, we do not raise the level of youth ministry in America. One of the things that I have been calling for is that veteran paid youth leadership would take responsibility for the volunteer youth leadership in their area. By spending time with them and sharing resources, we can impact youth ministry much quicker than by isolating the paid and volunteer leaders.
So many other trends in Youth Ministry were noticeable this Summer. I have always tried to make these blogs a quick read. So, we will break three more trends down next week here on the blog.