This post is a part of the Dancing Jesus: Mentoring in the Church blog series that will be ongoing through the month of September. You can read about the series and view the schedule here. You can subscribe to all of the posts here.
Mature Leadership Within the Church
My neighbor believes that corporations are monsters. We live in downtown Portland and he has other friends who think the same thing. I haven’t asked my neighbor or his friends what they think about the church. I get the feeling they wouldn’t see a difference between the two.
One of the major flaws of corporations (take for example McDonalds) is that the weakest link is where the business meets the customer. CEO’s and managers with years of education and experience make major decisions on marketing strategy and where to build buildings, and they go into painstaking detail on the concept and execution, but when the consumer and business actually meet it’s with the most inexperienced and uneducated employee of the corporation. For McDonalds it’s the teenager highschooler that interacts with the customers and performs the transactions.
As the body of Christ, where the individual meets Jesus and the Church, that point of contact needs to be the strongest, deepest, most mature devout Christians (plural emphasized) to meet and walk with that person.
We’ve used the business model for the church instead of the extended family model.
Why are so many new or young pastors beginning in youth ministry? Why give the most inexperienced leaders to the most inexperienced Christians? Where are the elders, the parents, the mature adults? Many churches give the youth ministry to young pastors as a sort of starting ground, a way to work up the ladder. Yet very rarely are wisdom and youth contained in the same person. Why give the gems of our young leaders to the most inexperienced?
This is also a problem of many youth ministries. They are isolated from the church family and many are led by inexperienced and/or immature Christians. In Bible college I could walk through campus and immediately point out the individuals majoring in youth ministry based on personality and clothing style. It was an unfair stereotype. But unfortunately it was often true.
Success Not in Numbers
Entertainment is our attempt to appeal to culture. It’s a tool to increase numbers. The problem with numbers is that it’s short-term success. Success shouldn’t be measured in growth or numbers. Success shouldn’t even be measured. Our Western mindset entices us to make the youth a product. We’re not willing to develop theological thinkers for fear it won’t keep numbers up.
Parents carry a baby for the first few years of their life but the baby doesn’t produce anything. And yet we look for performance from our youth to rate the successes of our ministries instead of developing, nurturing, leading, and growing them within the family.
Real success is long-term. When the young man or woman that a youth pastor spent hours praying for and teaching and leading returns 10, 20, 30 years later with his or her family and their spouse affirms youth ministries impact in their life. That’s success. That beats out large numbers any Sunday.
Our consumer driven culture can perceive the church as a product. What can it give me? And too often we bow to the demand with entertainment. Youth ministry should be fun and creative, but novelty is being taken to the extreme when entertainment is the focus. Every youth leader can attest to searching the web for new games, or icebreakers, or ideas, or anything to keep kid’s attention. Then when real life hits and the “cool entertaining Jesus” they met in their youth group doesn’t take care of life’s problems then Jesus, God, and the Bible are no longer relevant.
The difficulty is convincing churches and ministries to shift the focus from a segmented one to a family oriented one that fosters numerous mature adult relationships.