Over the recent months, I have been facing a paradigm shift in my own philosophy of ministry. I am learning that for my role as the Student Pastor good youth ministry is good ministry with adults.
I think I always knew this. It has been stirring in the back of my mind for several years. I studied under Kenda Creasy Dean who used to harp on this topic without end, but only lately have I let it truly infiltrate my philosophy of student ministry. Here's why: I am committed to a modality of growth with our middle and high school programs that seeks to create a safe space for any and every teenager to safely land and encounter the living Jesus Christ.
And we are on our way. In 18 months alone, we have experienced an upward trajectory of 7 students to 70 students rotating through our programs every month.
But I am limited. I am only able to lead insofar as my personal finite abilities allow me. Ideally, I would LOVE to have significant and spiritual friendships with all of the students, equip the leaders to do the great work of student ministry, build partnerships with every parent, enjoy an excellent relationship with my lead pastor, occasionally preach, and be home at 5pm everyday with my wife.
But I have reached a glass ceiling. I am at max capacity of my leadership. This is as far as my skills can take the ministry. I have hit the wall, and I am not satisfied to stay here. I have a holy discontentment and a drive for more that keeps me pressing onward for the sake of our teenagers. I want more than anything for them to encounter the risen Lord and discover the true satisfaction that flows form him! I want to leave it all on the field and die trying.
Ministry, however, does not begin and end with me. It can't! That is an egocentric perspective of ministry and one in which each one of us needs to wrangle.
We are stewards. We prod, we lead, and we guide with humility and gentleness, attempting to replicate our own pastoral leadership in and amongst those with whom we call alongside of us. All Christians are both called and must call others to the task of participating in the ongoing life of Jesus through participating in the outworking of the church in the world.
To this end, is it true that you and me are more of a Pastor then to the adults and leaders who have primary influence over our students than the students themselves? I think so.
I have witnessed in the last several months a direct correlation between my constant, transparent, and sympathetic leadership with my student leadership team and the health and faith formation of our students. In other words, when I get the heck out of the way and instead undergo the task of guiding my leaders to do what God has created them to do, real and true transformation takes place... and on a scale that only God can claim.
In subsequent posts, I will be outlining what this process looks like and how to engage it. But the first step you must take is to pray for and chase after humility! You will always be limited by your own capacity and abilities. Yet, if you humble yourself and invite others to join with you in the good work of student ministry — accepting that they may do some things better — then there will be no limit to what your segment of the Body of Christ may do in the world of teenagers!