In a recent post, I argued that we need to stop playing it safe in youth ministry and encourage our youth to follow a more radical Jesus. Several of you offered some helpful comments on this post and I didn't want them to go unnoticed. Here is a sampling:
It is more dangerous inside the church than it is outside. It is like being trapped in a garage with the car running and breathing spiritual carbon monoxide, until you pass out and then die spiritually. The toxic fumes of religion are no match for following Christ in the open air of a hurting world.
So much of youth ministry have been tuned to "protect" teens from the "evil world". The church turns missional, but strangely enough youth ministry seems to be the last to change. In youth ministry we still do the contra-world type ministry where we simply duplicate what happens in the local culture and so it in a "safe Christian environment". Dangerous Youth Ministry might be not have youth group, but to send our teens back to where they come from... that is where they should be living, not true?
To make a Church dangerous, we as Youth pastors must first be dangerous. When Jesus is being made known and people see the fruit in our ministry they will either: fire us, or follow us.
Our blogger friend Jason shared a sort of companion post he wrote for his blog that echoes the sentiment that perhaps we've been playing too safe with our youth. Jason comments:
After reading your post Brian I couldn't help but think of Lenore Skenazy in New York who wrote a book called "Free Range Kids." As a reporter she found that the HYPE about danger was always WAY out of proportion to the reality. She was voted worst mom for letting her 9 year old ride by himself on the New York Subway system. Churches could probably do months of lessons on just statistics alone showing how the things we think are dangerous in reality are not the things we
should be worried about.
I'm living that "safe" youth group (note - I can't even call it ministry) and it's killing me! Oh, to be dangerous...that's what I want. How can I get my church to become dangerous?
We started 2 years ago doing what we call eVANgelism, where we pile into vans loaded with press pots of coffee and hot cocoa and head to downtown Toledo Ohio on winter evenings (typically thursday) and give everyone we can find coffee and cocoa, sometimes praying with people, sometimes sharing the Gospel, sometimes just having conversations.
This evolved into a summer ministry where we take our bikes downtown split up and just meet people on their lunch breaks, or general pedestrians and talk about life, pray, and share the gospel. The response has been tremendous for the most part. The one piece of advice everyone gives us is this "Be careful". I understand the concern, I really do, but that advice is an indictment on where we are as a church in america... too much caution, too much fear.
- Challenging your youth to round up all the stuff in their rooms at home that they hardly ever use, even though it is perfectly good "stuff." This might include clothes, cds, books, electronics. If they haven't used it in the last year, have them bring it to the church, hold a rummage sale, and decide on a worthy cause that could use the funds. Follow-up on a study or radical stewardship.
- Experiencing a homeless simulation by creating a shanty town on your church parking lot from cardboard boxes and then you and your youth sleep in them overnight, your only food being some sandwiches and water served to you from the trunk of a church member's car. Debrief the experience as a way to talk more honestly about the problems of homelessness.
- Taking a stand on an issue involving justice, peace, prejudice or oppression in your community by creating signs with positive messages about the issue and then displaying them as your group stands on a busy street corner on a silent vigil.
- Partnering with local interfaith youth groups to do a mission project together, taking time in the experience to learn about each other's values and belief systems.