This weekend I drove up to Baltimore for a Young Life staff training day. As a former YL staffer in Portugal, this was a rare treat, ’cause I was invited to teach on contextualizing ministry to a particular youth culture. Humbled and excited, I was also totally knackered/shattered. I arrived completely bleary-eyed on caffeine, having only slept 3 hours the night before (see also: finals week). But sweet Wanda kept handing me lattes, and it was a small enough group that we could really have some dialogue, which also kept me awake. I was encouraged by how eager these folks are willing and ready to take some new risks in ministry. (Particularly because Young Life in America tends to be a well-oiled methodological machine.) Here’s what I taught on:

(Re)Imagining Ministry to Lost Kids
1. Becoming artisan leaders means rockin a cycle of Listening, Letting Go, and Learning.
2. We gotta listen for God’s Voice like Moses did (Exodus 33:9-18) and insist on His Presence leading us.
3. Listening like Moses did often means waiting and looking like a moron (Exod. 24:16-18).
4. We gotta listen to the voices of kids and empower them to lead, instead of us.*
5. If we don’t listen to the voices of kids they’ll become our ministry “objects” rather than “subjects.” (And that’s gross.)
6. We gotta let go of our “golden calves” in ministry. (AKA. Anything we turn to because “it just works,” rather than first listening for and waiting on God.) Exod. 32:1-6.
7. We’ve even gotta let go of our “vain repetetions” in ministry. (Matthew 6:5-13). Though Jesus was talkin’ about prayer, perhaps the same Pharisee-thing applies when we get all hyper-methodologized in ministry.
8. We’ve gotta learn as cross-cultural missionaries of our students’ school, listening to “the pulse” of the culture. We’ve gotta know, “What is good news to these kids?” before we can communicate THE Good News.
9. We’ve gotta let go of the notion that we’re the only ones who want these kiddos to be whole. We’ve gotta creatively partner with the folks in the community who have a vested interest in these same kids, even if those folks don’t follow Jesus.
10. We’ve gotta learn all over again to dream and take risks with the Holy Spirit.

*I showed this gorgeous Sigur Ros video to illustrate, metaphorically, what it looks like for kids to lead other kids to freedom.

10 thoughts on “(Re)Imagining Youth Ministry

  1. i like all these ten thoughts. #6 and #7 especially.

    but now i must scold you for three hours sleep. nelly, nelly, you are not 19. take better care of yourself, please ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I love thinking of you having great opportunities like this to share all the wisdom God taught you through your time in Portugal. Awesome, awesome, wonderful image for my mind.

    It’s so refreshing to remember that ministry is meant to be organic and alive, not stale and mechanical.

    Also, I agree with Lisa. remember to rest! (you and jane and portugal and gus mostly taught me how, anyway. all you have to do is take a long breakfast prior to showering.) : )

  3. Thanks for posting this list. There’s a lot of good stuff here that we all need to be reminded of. I’m gonna share some of this with my adult volunteer staff.

  4. Lisa,
    I knew your rebuke was coming. I could hear your voice in my ears as I was driving up to Baltimore, clinging to my extra-large coffee cup.

  5. Rachel,
    Yes, Jane (and Gus!) taught us much about Rest. So did Portugal. Those days are so fresh in my mind.

    Last night when I couldn’t sleep I was thinking about shopping in that little Polisuper.

  6. Sigh. I had a night like that last Thursday when I couldn’t sleep, and I was thinking about Portugal. I was in our kitchen, and then walking down the esplanade to Cascais. Mega sigh. Really glad to know I am not the only one that happens to.

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