Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Late Night Musings...

    It's interesting the kinds of stuff you can come across on the internet when you are up late at night watching reruns of "The Rockford Files." I stumbled upon a refreshingly honest blog called Stupid Church People and a particular entry really caught my attention:

    My years as a pastor were mainly spent in youth ministry. That was my "specialty" and I believe I did it well for the most part. Especially as I became older. I think we do an injustice by putting young adults (especially post adolescent males) in charge of our young people. I know that this opinion goes a bit against what I have posted before about young adults leading the way in the church, but I do not think a young man in his early twenties has any business being in charge of the youth ministry in any church. There are a few reasons I feel this way, but as I have reached my 40's and have a pre-teen coming up, I especially feel this way. . .. . .As a youth pastor in my early 20's, I tended to take advantage of the general "misery" youth felt and equate that with a spiritual need rather than just a typical developmental need. In my opinion, this develops a warped sense of spirituality in teens, and for many of them, these warped ideas continue well into adulthood.
    You know, in thinking a bit more about it, there are plenty of youth pastors in there 30's and even 40's that manipulate the developmental needs of teens to create these feelings of "spiritual voids" within them. To me, that's a shame. I am beginning to think that NOT taking my 12-year-old to church on a regular basis might be a really good thing. He might have the chance to actually be normal.

    You really have to visit this blog to read some painfully honest commentary from someone who used to do paid ministry but has since found it a real challenge to stay connected with the Church --a Church which the writer feels is often divorced from the true way of Jesus. Incidentally, this is the very reason many young people give for why they are leaving the Church in their early twenties, with no intention of coming back.

    On this issue of young youth ministers: I sometimes wonder if the Church could do with a lot less women/men in their early twenties running youth ministry programs. And I say that as a 40-year-old guy who started youth ministry when I was 23. Granted: At 23 I had more energy, more free time, and could relate better to teen culture. That said, anyone in their early twenties overseeing a ministry with teenagers just a few years younger themselves needs plenty of supervision, boundary training, and a good mentor.

    Let me be clear: I'm not casting doubt that a young twenty-something could be called to ministry with youth. I fully believe I was called to youth ministry even at that early age...but that doesn't mean I knew what I was doing. I was still trying to figure out who I was, let alone serve as an expert on helping teens navigate the ups and downs of adolescence. Thank God that I also felt drawn to become a teacher at the same time and much of what I learned as a professional educator forced me to be a better minister to youth. Now at 40, I finally feel I have some sort of handle on what I'm doing. More patience, more perspective, just as much idealism........and I expect to be even better when I'm 50!

    So why is it, when I go to youth ministry training events, so many of the participants are just out of college (or younger)? Why do so many churches hire very young youth ministers? Is it because they will work for low pay? Is it partly to do with our culture's love affair with the attractiveness of youth and all things new? Or is it allegiance to that old chestnut that youth ministry is a training ground for "real" ministry? We certainly wouldn't want 22-year-old parents raising 15-year-old kids. Yet, many young ministers (including a huge number of seminary interns) will begin their ministries working with teenagers. I wonder if it would be better to have our youngest ministers serving adult populations who are in a better position to hold them accountable for what they are teaching and who might be able to help young pastors grow and mature within their ministry.

    Does this make sense...or am I just a rambling 40-something-guy? What are the advantages to being a "young" youth minister (there are plenty!)? What are the advantages to being an "old" youth minister (there are plenty!)? What would it be like if every church teamed the two together? Well, enough of this. I have to go take my Geritol.



    Da Youth Guy said...

    Hey Brian,
    I think it's a couple things. Yes, the financial end comes into it. I was willing to work for much less 20 years ago than I am now. Unfortunately I think this says something very unhelpful about the place of youth ministry within the mind of the church (I am in fact the second lowest paid member of the staff on which I serve.)
    Second there is the "Younger ministers will connect better with the kids". This is simple rubbish. In fact the closeness of age can insert stumbling blocks to that relationship.
    Third, quite honestly I think some folks wonder about us "old folks" (I'm 49) and probably especially guys who want to hang out with teens. Many adults can't imagine doing such a thing so there must be "some other reason".
    Finally too often YM is simply not seen as a career track so too many older folks don't want to get "stuck" there.

    I think everyone of those reasons is just bone stupid. But there you are.


    Brian said...

    Thanks for you thoughtful remarks. I have read on other blogs youth ministers suggesting that once you turn 40 you are probably too old to be working with teens, and at 50 you are definitely too old! I think that's B.S. Mike Yaconelli was connected to youth ministry his entire career and he was no spring chicken when he passed away. Certainly no one would suggest he had no business ministering to youth at his age!
    As an aside, I have had many folks ask me when I plan to get my own church and be a senior pastor. It seems to confuse them when I say that my call to ministry is with young people and in education -- no as C.E.O. of a church! My age doesn't alter my call.

    Steve said...

    Thanks for the mention... and I enjoyed reading your reflections.

    Good stuff... hang in there old man!