The last couple of days I had the privilege to trek down to Indianapolis Indiana for a youth pastors convention/conference, and it was a great time. There were between 100 and 150 youth pastors/workers from all over the country who were gathering for refreshment, encouragement, and training on how to be more effective in leading the youth in their communities. Brad (Whitey) and myself had the great privilege to lead a breakout session, at three different times in the two days, on weekly programming for youth ministry. We shared more on why we do what we do than what we do specifically, because we have no idea the culture these youth pastors are in and so copying and pasting what someone else is doing is often just a recipe for disaster and usually falls apart any way. So we shared our thoughts and our hearts on things and took the time for questions and allowing the pastors/leaders to express where they are at and if we, or anyone, had any good advice for them. For me, this was the best part of being able to share, because more than anything they needed to be encouraged and they needed to know that others are wrestling with the same sort of problems and tensions. Whitey and I let them know right up front that neither one of us is "full time" at our church and that we have failed many times on our way to trying to find what is the best ways to minister to our students and to share a programmed night with them. The biggest problems were not that these people didn't have big budgets, fancy equipment, or enough students to have a program for. No, we found that a lot of the problems were that they didn't have time between having supplemental jobs, they didn't have support from their church because "youth need to be seen but not heard," and they kind of feel like they are on an island trying to figure out how to care for youth. It seemed the best thing they learned from Whitey and myself was, that if we try and do everything then we will fail, but if we are doing what we are gifted at and learn to delegate and share the ministry with others, then we can move forward in a much healthier way. Several people recognized how different Whitey and I are, but how well we worked together and were asking questions on how we came to that point. Us sharing with them that we are still trying to identify our roles and trying to get people, both students and adults, into their gifted areas so that we can continue to be a growing healthy community, really seemed to strike a nerve. I don't know why, but it still amazes me how many people are tossed out into a life boat, asked to lead and grow the youth, and to do that while balancing supplemental jobs and family. And I loosely use "balance supplemental jobs and family," because it was very obvious that "balance" wasn't too much of a reality.
With that small bit of knowledge though, I have to say, it was awesome to be able to briefly share with others our journey and to be able to pray with them and for them. There didn't seem to be a whole lot of talk on specific programming as much as there was just talk of how to best model to students a worshipful life that is given away to those around us. One of the best points that Whitey made, was that if it's not your gift, or someone else's in your community, to do videos and technical stuff, then you don't have to do it. We just shared with them that to live out how you are gifted and wired, as well as your community, is the best way to reach those around you with God's love. Trying to do something that is cool or something that every other youth ministry is doing, is just denying yourself the opportunity to be who God has made and gifted you to be. What a privilege it is to be able to share life with others that are desiring to give the love of God to the youth around them. And once again, how amazing it is that I leave a place where I was the "teacher" and I am the one that feels so blessed and has learned so much. What a great reminder not to get so caught up with what we are doing and on "our ministry" and to live for the kingdom advancement. To live with open lives so that God can bless us to be a blessing, and for us to take the time to encourage those around us. And to recognize that our story is a piece of God's story that is meant to be shared with those around you and is given up to God as worship. What an incredible blessing it was to share the last two days with other youth ministers from all around the country, and to live out some of the gifts God has placed on my life.
Humbled and honored to serve