(Continued from yesterday‘s post.)
What, then, to do? That’s a good question. What will it mean for congregations to think outside the box of the past forty years and consider what makes most sense in their context? We need to have the courage to make big changes–even ones that might be uncomfortable. This might mean a less hierarchical structure amongst pastoral staff. It could involve a complete rejection of the term youth pastor in favor of “family pastor” or “discipleship pastor”: roles that should not be mere name changes, but shifts in thinking and acting.
It is hard to see beyond what we are currently doing. It can even feel wrong to consider not hiring a youth pastor. I know. But shouldn’t we countenance different things for the sake of the Church?
Such new approaches could involve churches considering how not just one “professional,” but a team of co-laborers (pastors and laypersons alike) might interact and work with adolescents in the midst of their service to the whole congregation. Youth ministry would then be of the church, not hired out to one person, as it were, by the church. Think about it: what if the youth, together with everyone else in the congregation, had the same pastor(s)? In this scenario, diverse ministers and servants in the church could work with young people, but in a way more integrated with each other, families, and the larger church.
All of this means that more, not less, people ought to be taking courses and getting training in youth ministry. Those studying for all kinds of ministry should be able to reflect on what adolescence is about so that they might serve together with the rest of the church. No longer, in other words, ought there just to be one “expert” in the church that does all the ministry with a single group. While a “point person” or coordinator still makes sense…maybe no more than that is needed.
So, those are my few thoughts today. Many thanks to the youth pastors out there who even now are faithfully serving in our churches. This post is not meant to reject the work in which you are engaged, but rather as a challenge for our churches to consider as we minister to those within and without our walls. May the result of changing times not be less ministry to young people, but a deeper awareness of the way ministry, discipleship, and evangelism is a part of the life and work of the whole church.
Today and yesterday’s brief thoughts represent only the beginning of a conversation. Please feel free to continue the dialogue as you respond and comment.