Whose Ministry is it Anyway? Breaking down the walls!

In my early years as a youth worker I remember getting all fired up about relational ministry. I thought that in order to be relational I needed to be the one building relationships with youth. After all, building relationships with youth gives you permission to speak to them about the Gospel, right? I essentially became a lone ranger. I rode my silver horse of “cool youth activities” and used a fun personality to build relationships with kids in order that one day I might get to shoot the golden bullet: spend a few minutes talking about this great guy named Jesus!

I remember thinking that if I partnered with parents or staff I might lose the relationships that I had with youth and lose the one chance of making a difference in their lives. After all, parents are the enemy and pastors are only good for boring confirmation lessons and bad jokes, right?

Actually, I was stuck in a mentality that afflicts many new youth workers.  I had the right intentions: making a difference in the lives of teenagers, but the wrong direction. Ministry is not mine to control. Ephesians 4 is clear that Christ is the head of the church and He who appoints youth workers, pastors, teachers and (if we take Luther’s definition) parents to build up His body. The Ministry is Christ’s, not ours. We are only the messengers of His saving Grace. Who thought up the idea that just by hanging out with kids and being cool we would change their lives forever? There is only one Savoir and I am not Him. Face it, neither are you.

Now don’t hear me wrong, I am still an advocate of relational ministry. We need to work together in relationships to build one another up and these relationships give us permission to speak. Even Christ sent the disciples out two by two. The egocentric perspective that our relationships with kids will make the difference is the problem. The only relationships that make a difference are the ones that point to Christ. He is our Redeemer!

Wow, did I ever have it wrong! When I finally gave up my insecurities and skepticism, I started working with parents and other staff in the faith life of children. I was amazed. I found more and more support from parents and the people in the church: especially the pastor. I began getting more volunteers for events and more kids started coming. The ministry grew exponentially. The most amazing change was that the conversations at youth night stopped focusing on benign issues, surface discussions, and the ever present “Did Adam have a belly button?” type questions. Youth started asking questions with substance and were begging to dig deeper into Scripture. They wanted to find answers and be able to share them with their parents and peers because those topics were at the center of their discussions outside of youth group. While this pushed me to be more prepared, seeing the change in the overall ministry was well worth it!

I found that I was doing less work and having more fun because I was partnering with others.  There were more people with better skills that were able to meet the needs of these kids.  The Gospel was being shared, lives were being changed, and I got to watch it in action. Tearing down the walls that I had created around myself and the ministry made all the difference. The ministry was finally in the hands of its rightful owner.

Ways to break down the walls

1. Be transparent with parents and staff about what is happening in your areas of responsibility. You might be surprised by their understanding and insight!
2. Include parents and staff in decision making and seek their input! This will build trust and open up lines of communication. Who knows, you might find one or two that really connect with the youth group.
3. Be honest with yourself about the reasons behind what you are doing. Our inner thought lives can play havoc on our efforts.
4. Think “partners” in ministry. It’s really about surrounding teens with the Gospel not shooting them with friendship.
Partnering with Parents by Jim Burns 
Passing on the Faith by Dick Hardel & Merton Strommen
The Search for Significance by Robert McGee
Ordering your Private World by Gordon MacDonald
Take a daily walk with God through His Word.


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