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Youth Ministry is Risky Business

youth-ministry-risky-businessThe parable of talents (or bags of Gold) has taught me many different leadership lessons over the years, but perhaps the most eye-opening and convicting of them all has been with regard to the concept of managing risk.

Risk Management in Youth Ministry

There is a lot to be said about the concept of managing risk when it comes to youth ministry. I’ve spent countless hours navigating through complex situations that required great sensitivity. I can remember losing many hours of sleep agonizing over different leadership questions and conversations that dealt with matters of great risk. Perhaps you can identify with some of these sleepless nights if you’ve ever been in a situation where you are contemplating a major shift in your youth ministry. Maybe you’ve even made a list of pros and cons for or against your proposed change or risk, and based your final decision on what the cost of the risk might be.

The Upside of Risk Management

While there is a great cost associated with risk, there is also a great reward. The story of the bags of gold reminds me of this. Two servants found the courage and inner resolve to risk what they had in order to pursue more. And while we may apply this concept to the materialistic pursuit of happiness as a society, I’m not convinced that the material gain these servants experienced had anything to do with materialism at all. Take out your leadership lens and re-examine this story once again. Two leaders with ample resources invested what they had in pursuit of greater things. Sounds like a basic youth ministry principle to me, doesn’t it?

Leadership Lessons

What if leadership is more about learning to take appropriate risks rather than managing the risk itself? If it is true that great reward comes only through great investment or risk, shouldn’t we spiritual guides of the emerging generation become expert risk-takers for the sake of Kingdom extension?

I’m beginning to wonder if my strategic plans, strengths assessments and evaluation of weakness would be better served as filters for questions about my ability to embrace risk as a leader. No general wins a battle by choosing to play it safe. If we agree that this emerging generation cannot and will not be disciple in the ways of Jesus through entertainment based illusions, are we then willing to risk what we know for what we do not know, trusting that the leading into risk will provide great returns if the risk itself is simply an extension of a invitation by Christ to come and follow after him?

Youth ministry might just be about risky business, but then again, so is life itself! May we learn to navigate, embrace and lead into risk as invited by the power and presence of God’s Spirit.

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