Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Raising the Bar for Student Ministry and Her Ministers

Recently I found myself reading this book.... The title of the book is Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. When this book was published in 2008, the authors were 19 year old twin brothers. The subtitle is "A Rebellion Against Low Expectations." I first heard about this book from Dr. Allen Jackson of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary at a conference in Atlanta. I appreciate Jackson's views of youth ministry, and when I saw that the forward to the book was written by Chuck Norris, I had to get the book. Let's be honest if Chuck Norris wrote the forward to your book, then your book can beat up all the other books. Anyways, I thought I should give it a read as a student minister. life so often goes, I bought the book, brought it home, and stuffed it on a book shelf about 3 years ago. Recently I was looking for a different word, and stumbled upon this one in my library. I thought to myself, that I am reading too many other books right now and have too much going on, so I should not read this. Nonetheless, my ADD got the better of me, and I found myself reading this book. Perhaps it was the threat of a roundhouse kick from the author of the forward...

These two young men wrote some fairly interesting material about how teenagers have become this categorization of mediocrity and low expectations. As a student minister who strives to build leaders in the ministry and set high standards for students to aspire, this book was the content I enjoy. What I was not expecting was implications it would have for me and my fellow student ministers.

In the chapter the "Myth of Adolescence" the two boys explained how in various studies teenagers are expected to not achieve anything or be responsible. I agreed with this notion, and I would further argue that I have seen a trend for an extension of adolescence into the young twenty year old and college students. It seems that adulthood in our culture is to avoided at all costs, until finally you have to grow up.

As I sat there pondering these thoughts about immature teens and college students who refuse to grow up and take up the mantle of leadership and responsibility it hit me. This problem is so pervasive it has even reached into student ministry and the student ministers. I mean, think about, youth ministers are the guys who acts like a goofball with lots of childish whims. Many church members think the youth guy should be in some outback office with his loud music and trendy office, so he doesn't disturb the peace of the main office. I have run into this all too often, when young guys show up to seminary and want to become youth ministers. They want to be that cool guy who all the youth look to and are buddies with, just like the guy or girl who was their youth minister.

When it comes to class, it seems like the guy who wants to be the youth minister is often lower in the GPA, late turning in assignments, and would rather play the intramural sports than study in the library. Many universities and colleges do not even view student ministry as a viable career for professionals to be a part. Furthermore, if I do meet a decent youth minister who has a plan and is teaching biblical values to students, he is often using the student ministry as his stepping stone to the senior pastorate.

This is why student ministries would rather play chocolate chubby bunny in the youth room rather than go on a mission trip to their schools. This is why the student minister is often not asked to preach for the pastor when he is out, because student ministers do not apply themselves in these areas. Why is this the case that student ministry and her ministers are thought of so low?

I refer back to the Harris brothers. They argued that it was due to the low expectations of adults set on students that students performed so poorly. I would argue that this reaches further to the student minister. So little is expected of the student minister in the modern church, its no wonder that there are many Christian leaders turning their backs on student ministry. Not too long ago I read this article from Christian Post, stating that modern youth ministry is a 50 year experiment that failed.

My response and solution is this - we must as student ministers raise the bar ourselves. No one is going to call us to higher standards but us. We must determine to be professionals with direction and vision for our ministry. We must aspire to be of the highest caliber of leader to best serve this new generation. We must strive to be someone whom the senior pastor can trust and considers a viable asset to the ministerial team. If we are to ever change the world, we must first change ourselves.

For further reading on the Harris brothers, I would encourage you to consider their blog:
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