I previously wrote an article discussing my trust issues with letting other adults teach and lead. I’ve had some good follow-up conversations from it, and wanted to put the second part in play as well. I’m really working through the idea of a ministry to students (which is what we’ve been doing) as opposed to a ministry of students (which we just dabble in). There is a TON of ongoing discussion in youth ministry about “student lead ministry.” I’m really wrestling with what exactly that looks like in our context.
I hear these stories from speakers and authors about how the kids in their groups are organizing global events and saving the world, all without adult help. I even heard one recent speaker make the comment that if there is an adult in the youth meeting, he/she had better not speak at all, or else the students are expected to kick them out of the meeting. Ok, this speaker was clearly WAY overstating their case, and going to an extreme to shock/impress the audience. It did very little for me. That simply isn’t a Biblical approach if we take that literally, which I know the speaker didn’t even do.
But what DOES it look like to train students to do ministry? Some of the proponents of this idea discuss making sure everyone “on stage” at youth group is a student, right down to always having students teach. That might be it, but I think that’s incomplete. We often discuss how youth ministry is supposed to exist outside the walls of the church, but then consider “extreme” discipleship making with students letting them plan/run the youth group program at church. Could it be more?
Our churches need to push towards a model where “church” literally happens more outside the building than in it. I don’t necessarily mean moving our worship services to a park for a week (although that can often be a tool to make everyone reconsider what “church” is). I mean changing our philosophy towards ministry, who does it, and where does it happen. We need to actually move towards designing ministries that thrive outside of our safe walls. Our personal ministry goal is to move, incrementally, over the next five years, to where 75% of our ministry happens outside of the church building. We aren’t reducing what we do now. We are strategically implementing methods that don’t exist right now to do ministry “out there”. Before you ask for the PDFs, I don’t know what that’s going to look like in its entirety. It’s a five-year plan, where each year, we push out a little farther.
This is where my questioning a ministry “to students” vs. one “of students” comes in. I can try to go out and make new students ministries in our community, and I will. But I will never hit our goal of 75% outside, while keeping all we currently do going in a healthy manner as well. I could task adults with it, but they will struggle as well. But what if I give this goal to our students? What if they go and create, in their world? What if we meet with them, train them, encourage them, pray with them, and then follow them as they lead out of the church? What impact on our group, our church, our community might that have over the next half decade? What will they learn about being disciples? Or what might they internalize about what the word “church” means? Yeah, it could get potent really fast.
This is where we are headed. I don’t know what it will look like, or what it will become. It’s okay. I don’t have to. (And I am a MAJOR control freak). Jesus does, and He will tell the students as they need to know. It’ll be fun.
I’d love to hear your successes, failures, or thoughts on all of this.
Thanks for thinking it through with me.