I’ll never forget the first night of student Bible study at my church. I heard a group of students talking about how a certain group of people had moved into town. The tone implied that only a certain type of student should attend our youth group. I know that sounds crazy and no one was coming out and saying those words. However, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Don’t these people care about the lost?” For the record, these same students have proven to me time and time again that they love all of God’s creation, not just certain stereotypes. That was also four years ago. I share this story to prove a point. Our actions, budgets, and events can communicate that we’re only after a certain group of people. I think Jesus has a problem with that.
To begin, let’s think though a couple questions. What demographic do you reach most? What are you doing about the other demographics? Are you actively trying to reach them? Do you only target the “cool” kids? Do you only target the peripheral kids? The possible answers to these questions might not be bad within themselves, but they can cause other people to think that we prefer a certain group of people. We have to ask ourselves the question, “Are we ok with the people around us?”
I’ve met pastors who pray that God would send them “cool” kids. Some have said, “If only the jocks came to ____________.” It’s easy for us to get into the trap that our ministries need to look a certain way–have a certain flair or personality. Being a missionary/pastor myself, I see nothing wrong with targeting a certain group of people. What becomes a problem is when we ignore everyone else.
I’m a firm believer that God puts certain people in our path for a reason. God called you to the ministry you’re in now. God organized the homes around your church to look a certain way. He created diversity in your community. He allowed their to be jocks, artists, marching band lovers, and stay-at-home and do nothing kids in your community. God loves them all EQUALLY.
Over the years, I’ve found myself wishing that a certain group of students would attend our church. I’ve fought the temptation to plan for a certain group of people. A great example of that is the year we did a ski retreat. I knew that we had a group of “cool” kids who loved to snowboard. I thought that if we plan a ski retreat that maybe
these students would come and invite their snowboard loving friends. In my mind, I remember thinking about what our ministry would look like when all of them decided to make CSM their home. It was going to be awesome. The problem: None of that happened! Several of the kids had other plans and the ones that did show up left and did their own thing with other friends that just happen to be there. My grand plans for growing our ministry to look a certain way bombed.
Listen, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. Satan knows what it’s like too. You see, he’s the one that plants these ideas in our minds. He’s the one that makes us feel like we have to look a certain way. We so easily take these suggestions and allow them to fester inside of our minds. We begin to believe the lies. We program, build relationships, and spend money to support false ideology. In essence we create an environment of separation. We place a higher value on certain types of students. We become socially racist.
Here are four things that every youth pastor needs to consider:
1. Do you wish for a certain “type” of youth group?
2. Do you talk to the “cool” kids first on Sunday morning or school events?
3. Do you think about events/programs that would reach a demographic you’re currently not reaching?
4. Do you care about the lost in your community (regardless of their background, income level, and race)?
We need to go to the Lord and to meditate on these Scriptures:
Luke 19:10 (the lost–not a certain social group)
1 John 4:8 (Are we loving the way Christ loves?)