What should I be doing? A question that people in all careers need to ask themselves often. No one wants to waste their time doing things that aren’t going to matter. In business time might be wasted on unnecessary paperwork or meetings. At home, time might be wasted watching daytime television or checking all the social media sites. Knowing what our life is to be about is of paramount importance to making our lives count.
As a youth pastor, I work primarily with teenagers and their families. Teenagers scare a lot of people, but for those of us who spend time with them on purpose, we realize that they are worth the investment of time. There are such opportunities in youth ministry that there ought to be even more people involved in it. I did write a post about teenagers are opportunities back in December highlighting how the culture will blame them, but rarely offer solutions.
As adults, we need to offer some solutions for helping our young people figure out what direction they are to take in their lives. With this as the backdrop, I read an article this week called Give up the Gimmicks, Youth Pastors. While it is addressed at youth pastors specifically, it has implications for every one of us. The basic idea of this article is for youth pastors to not get so caught up in the desire to be cool, or grow numerically, that the real purpose of the ministry is forgotten. Youth pastors are not party planners for teenagers, but people who invest time in their lives in order for them to walk with Jesus Christ.
There seems to be some debate about what this actually looks like. Some people are all about the gross, wild and crazy games. They do games that are edgy, but draw a crowd. Then there are those who avoid games all together because they see it as just fluff time. Where is the balance?
Our culture is increasingly entertainment driven. We are constantly asking the question, “What’s in it for me?” It is harder and harder to get people involved in any church ministry program because of that. The buzz word for all of this is “relevance.”
What is relevance?
This whole discussion is all about what it means to be relevant. Who doesn’t want to be relevant? Parents want to be relevant to their kids. Television producers want to create a show that is relevant to the audience and advertisers. Shopping malls want to invite stores that are relevant to the demographic. Relevance is not the enemy, unless it is diminished to simply being entertaining. If that is the measure of relevance, well you certainly won’t last long at anything.
Think about the popular culture icons over the last 10 years. How many of them are still popular today? You could look at television shows now, or movies, and see the difference in what is entertaining now. How many reality shows do people really need to watch? Does that make it relevant, or just entertaining?
Relevance is lasting. Relevance means my life will be changed for the long-term. It means that in 30 years from now the thing is still as important as it is now. I know it seems like an unlikely link, but I read an article the other day about how the book “To Kill a Mocking Bird” is still relevant to readers today. It has, by their account, stood the test of time.
When we apply that to youth ministry, or parenting, we find that the most relevant thing we can give to teenagers or children is the Word of God. The Word of God is relevant to all generations. It stands the test of time and still changes people today. If youth ministries get entertainment oriented, they risk limiting the influence of what is truly relevant. If youth ministries ignore any form of entertainment, then it will be hard to share with the youth what is truly relevant because they won’t listen.
What does this mean for us, both in and out of youth ministry?
If you are not in youth ministry, your role looks different, but the implications still are the same. It is vital that your life is about something that is relevant. That means your goal in life is not just to be entertained, but you are also looking out for other people. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, that means knowing and obeying the Word of God. It means passing that on to your kids, praying for your kids and helping pass the message on to those with whom you have influence.
If you are in youth ministry, it means be very thoughtful about what you do with the time you have with the youth. Time in youth ministry is limited and you just never know when the message will make sense to a student. Therefore, you need to be about substance and let God do the work in hearts. Pray that God is the one who draws students in, not some type of hype.
It means that no matter what we are doing in life, we begin with the end in mind. In other words, what is the destination? If I want to become a business owner, I need to take certain steps to get there. If I want my kids to be healthy people who know who they are and what is important, then I need to teach them accordingly.
What’s at stake?
We are dealing with eternal matters here. Being able to spend time sharing God’s Word is an investment that changes lives for eternity. It is important we get this right.