What’s the number one task for a youth pastor? If you think it’s helping a student make a personal, individual decision to be saved, you’d have a lot of people stand behind you and agree. Chap Clark might not be one of them.
Today, at the Sticky Faith co-hort, Chap spoke for two afternoon sessions. In one of the sessions, he said that the primary task of youth ministry is different than many of us think. If our goal is to help individual students make individual decisions for individual relationships with Jesus, then we are missing the point. Instead, Chap contends that our purpose is to help students be adopted into the body of Christ. In ministry, we need to help students move into trusting Jesus in all things, and that occurs within the context of the family of God. He contends that students who make individual decisions for Jesus misunderstand what Jesus calls us to as part of His family, and as ministers working with them, we need to switch our focus to helping students trust Jesus in all of their challenges in life, and connecting them to mulitiple people in relationship with the church.
It’s definitely a challenge to the way many of us have viewed our roles and purpose in working with students. Can a student truly come to faith in Jesus on their own, without being a part of the family of Christ, without taking their place as part of the Body of Christ? Can a ministry be composed of people with individual faiths, and yet not be family? After growing up to believe that each person makes their own choice to trust Jesus, and that Jesus’ goal is to save each person, in and of themself, this shift in thinking is a stretch. I think Chap may be on to some key points though.
One of Chap’s points is that in adoption, the other members of the church family have to be willing to shift to welcome in the new member. Adults may have to compromise to make students welcome and have a place within the body. Otherwise, instead of the student being adopted, they are assimilated, where they are the only ones compromising to enter the family. I do think that is what we have often done, and it’s not effective.
So, I’m left wondering what I can do in all of this? How can I help students and parents be adopted into the family, instead of assimilated? How does this affect how we express the gospel? It definitely seems like better news. Much to think about.
Any ideas or thoughts?