by Adam McLane
Once upon a time there was a volunteer youth worker. She was committed to her church, had invested into the students of the congregation for years, and saw class after class graduate through the ranks of the student ministry.
And she lived happily ever after.
Once upon a time there was a spouse of a volunteer youth worker. He also loved his church and was thankful that his wife had found a place to use her spiritual gifts, share her heart, apply her abilities, maximize her personality and employ her experiences. She almost seemed to be a better person because of it.
The only problem was she never seemed to be home.
It didn’t seem like much at first to give up going to the same church service together since there was another one right after. Their young son really liked the class the church offered at the first service, though. Consequently, the husband would take the son to children’s church and sit through the first service by himself. Since his wife taught during that hour, it became common for them to never attend service together as a couple.
Then there were the times that he noted when she was home she wasn’t fully present. There was always another lesson to plan, another student to call or another meeting to be at. Even though he found his wife to be a much healthier Christian for all she was doing, he began to resent how unhealthy his marriage was becoming.
He spoke up a few times about it and asked her to cut back. She did at first, but then drifted back into the same load of a commitment. He thought about bringing it up again but felt like he was the voice of Satan himself for even thinking it.
Finally, the day came when he asked for a divorce. It was enough to scare her to back out of everything altogether. They had conversation after conversationover the next few months, eventually agreeing not to get a divorce. She eventually went back to teaching “a little bit.”
And they lived amicably ever after.
Once upon a time there was a paid youth pastor. He started to notice that his faithful volunteer was back in full force, although her husband was strangely absent at weekend services.
“How’s your husband these days,“ the youth pastor inquired. “I haven’t seen him around.”
“He started attending another church,” she answered. “I don’t like it, but at least we’re not divorced. Our son comes with me most weeks and I check him into children’s church before I go teach.”
“Wait, what?” the youth pastor again asked. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”
“We’re managing everything just fine,” she responded. “He has his life, and I have mine. Besides, this way I get to serve and make a real difference in the lives of the students. And we don’t argue as much. He feels closer to God than ever before.”
And they lived adequately ever after.
Once upon a time there was a senior pastor. The youth pastor reported all that he’d learned of the situation, asking what the most biblical response should be to the situation. It felt wrong somehow, and yet the couple seemed okay with it. After thinking long and hard and praying on it, the senior pastor offered this advice that he sensed was the most God-honoring way to proceed:
(fill in the blank)
To oversimplify, children often come to school and are taught largely in big class environment from their teachers, the skills put into practice with semi-supervised in-class work or homework. Khan’s theory is to reverse that. Children spend time on their own (either at home or in school) watching short instructional videos and work with their teachers in trying to put it together.
It’s a radical demarkation from the way many of us were taught. But early experiments are showing, at least in math and the sciences, that this can be a great way for people of all ages to learn.
As you’d expect this has those in professional education a bit worried, annoyed even. They claim it’s not that revolutionary of a concept and it’s really just a way to eliminate teacher jobs. (The Khan Academy’s mission is to make a world class education FREE. I can see how that would ruffle feathers.) While those in education might not like it the numbers are clear. Kahn’s YouTube channel has nearly 300,000 subscribers and his channel has more than 129,000,000 views.
What about youth ministry?
As I watched this segment I couldn’t help wondering about the potential impact this could have in youth ministry? After all, we often find ourselves scratching our heads and saying… “I’m teaching the best I know how. Are they getting it?” And maybe there really is something to this style of teaching that could alter the style we teach?
In particular, I have a bunch of friends who teach confirmation classes. For them their confirmation class is often the closest thing that they get to a traditional classroom setting in their ministry. Is it fools gold to believe that they could flip this style of teaching where students would do the primary chunks of learning on their own and come to confirmation class to work out the applications of what they learned?
Q’s for Discussion
- What is your primary teaching style? Like, what’s your sweet spot?
- What are some different teaching methods you’ve tried?
- Do you think this Kahn Academy concept has any merit in Christian ed?
Sometimes a life of youth ministry calls you to get involved in things much bigger than yourself. Such is the case of our long-time friend, Jeremy Del Rio in his leading the charge against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to kick churches out of public schools.
Check out this debate Jeremy participated in tonight, it gives you the flavor of what he’s up against. (Embed isn’t available) I’m biased because Jeremy is my friend. But he clearly won this debate. While Ms. Lieberman made little jabs and laid out a tired argument, Jeremy dropped bombs she never saw coming.
It seems the scales are starting to tip against Mayor Bloomberg’s decision. This editorial from Martin Bashir brings out all the valid points, essentially calling the ban religious bigotry.
What do you think? Are churches who rent school facilities on weekends at risk of giving preferential treatment to the church?
As this was a top new story this week it is sure to be on the minds of many parents in your ministry. What are some questions you’d like to ask parents as they consider if their sons (and daughters) will be vaccinated for HPV?
I’m certain you are well aware that October is breast cancer awareness month. In the sporting world pink is all the rage. And I think that we could agree that at some level, professional and college athletes.
But one Arizona school had to draw the line. When the cheerleaders of Gilbert High School bought t-shirt which featured the slogan, “Feel for lumps, save your bumps” the school’s administration had to act. Catchy slogan… but not appropriate for high school students. [Read the story at USA Today]
What is the line between legitimately raising awareness (and funds) and teenagers who just wanting to talk about breasts?
At youth ministry conferences we make jokes about pizza and hotdogs and Mountain Dew and all the rest of the junk food we feed our students. My children go to Awana and memorize Bible verses in exchange for candy.
Even the staples of youth ministry, games, are often exploiting unhealthy eating in exchange for victory. (Though one would argue that the banana through pantyhose game isn’t that bad, it’s just a banana!)
That has me wondering… are we supposed to minister to the whole person or just their heart and mind? Because what we teach by what we serve likely doesn’t reflect a healthy lifestyle.
What do you think?
(a little cut-and-paste from some writing i did today for a little book for youth workers about parents)
There’s been a rash of push back on youth ministry recently. In many ways, it’s rooted in an understanding of a Bible passage.
The Shema is Israel’s most important scripture. God-fearing Jews, to this day, pray the Shema first thing when they wake up, and last thing before they go to sleep.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Christian theologian and author, Scot McKnight, has proposed we embrace the same practice, adding a line from Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and calling it the Jesus Creed.
But the parenting bit comes in the verses immediately following the Shema:
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Actually, Deuteronomy 6 refers to parents and their children a few times. This is one of the primary places in scripture that we see the responsibility of parents so clearly laid out, in terms of the spiritual formation of their kids. It’s a good, biblically sound argument.
But this movement goes way beyond passionately calling parents to step up in terms of leading their children and teenagers spiritually. The movement suggests that youth ministry is unbiblical, because it isn’t mandated in the Bible. At a recent event on these issues, a youth ministry friend of mine shared the stage with a guy whose official title was “Youth Ministry Abolitionist.” Wow.
Let’s list a few things that are common in our churches today that aren’t listed in the Bible:
• Baptismal pools and fonts
• Church buildings
• Hired clergy
• Church budgets
• The word ‘trinity’ (though i certainly believe the concept is there)
• Church busses and vans
• Sound systems
• Children’s ministry
• Men’s ministry
• Women’s ministry
• Senior adult ministry
That list could easily be 10 or 100 times as long, right? And those aren’t bad things. They are, with the exception of the word trinity, contextual approaches to doing church (which, for the record, is not quite the same as being the church).
In one sense, of course there’s no directive about youth ministry in the Bible. Adolescence, as we experience it today, is a cultural construct and didn’t even exist until about a hundred years ago. And yet, we can still see plenty of examples in scripture of other adults (not the child or young person’s parent) playing a significant role in the faith development of a ‘youth’. For example: Samuel and Eli (see 1 Samuel, chapter 1). But looking for a biblical directive is somewhat beside the point.
The church is called (see: New Testament!) to share the gospel and grow disciples, to be the presence on Christ on earth. In a world where youth culture exists, this simply must include adults who are cross-cultural missionaries, willing to embody the gospel into that cultural context. If we’re not willing to do this, we’re not being the church.
Hear me: this does not mean (as should be obvious by now in this book) that I think we should consistently remove teenagers from their parents and wall them up in isolated spaces with only their peers (and a few crazy adults willing to get pizza stains on their shirts). But it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.
We can both be engaged in ministry to and with teenagers and support parents in their role of spiritually leading their children.
1. All of this assumes parents who give a rip, of course. There’s plenty of important youth ministry to be done with teenagers whose parents are completely disengaged.
2. I know I’m preaching to the choir here. Not too many Youth Ministry Abolitionists will be reading this book. ☺
I was going to move on now; but I feel compelled to write a bit more from my personal experience.
First, I wouldn’t be where I am without the loving input of youth workers in my own life. My parents are amazing. They’re godly people, loving parents, and were very engaged in my life. We spent lots of time together, and they actively modeled their faith in my view on a daily basis. No, they weren’t perfect; but they were everything we would hope teenagers would have, and more.
And yet, I needed, and my parents were glad for, other adults to speak into my life.
Fast forward. I am a parent of two teenagers. Liesl is 17 as I write – a senior in high school. Max is 14 and in 8th grade. I love my kids, and they’re a very high priority in my life. We love being together, and hang out all the time. I regularly speak into their lives, draw boundaries, encourage competencies, talk about faith stuff, and multiple other things we all hope teenagers would get from their parents. I’m far from perfect. But I’m humbled when my church’s youth pastor tells me I’m a great dad (and even more so when my own kids tell me that).
Would my two teenage children be ok if my church’s youth ministry didn’t exist? Maybe. But time and time and time again, I am thankful for both paid and volunteer youth workers who love my kids, speak truth to them, provide them a safe place to be honest about questions and screw-ups, and encourage them toward Jesus. I could not be more thankful for the youth workers from my church and their role in my kids’ lives.
Yes, more than a youth worker, I am a parent who is thankful for youth ministry. I’m fairly certain your church is full of parents like me.
New York State Assemblyman Joe Saladino is proposing a law which would require every teenager to submit to an annual drug test or face banishment from high school.
“We’re watching you,” he said, “not because we don’t trust you, but because we love you very, very much.”
According to the BBC report, the legislation is in response to a young man who died in his district. When he asked the grieving mother if there was anything he could do she asked him to do something about the drugs because this could happen to anyone.
What do you think? Is it a good idea to drug test teenagers universally? Or do you think this is too far? (Never mind the fact that New York state is broke and could never afford to fund this legislation.)