This past week, I spent over 30 hours in the class at Luther Seminary with Professor Andrew Root, who authored one of the most influential, paradigm shifting books I have ever read, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry.
I must admit, I’m a bit weary from the course. I wasn’t aware of how difficult it would be to sustain that kind of mental pace.
Anyways, I came away with a few key insights I thought I’d share with the rest of you youth pastor types — but applies to the non-youth pastor types as well.
1. Youth ministry theology, or all Christian theology, is absurd.
Why does “this” make sense? I mean, really. God experienced death through the cross and defeated death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of the centrality of the cross, all theology must proceed from the cross. And this is where “theology” begins.
What is theology? “Theology lives between the stories—God’s story of the world, and humanity’s ever-changing account of itself and all things. Theology is what happens when the two stories meet.” — Douglas John Hall.
How does this apply? God can take the worst students, the worst situations, the most difficult, life-numbing circumstances, and enter into the suffering with the student through our relationship with him or her. It is simply by standing in solidarity with another young person and saying, we’re facing this “death” with you.
Then and only then, when squaring off with trying times and circumstances can we see the hope of a new dawn and a new day. When we point to what the world can offer and then what God’s Kingdom can offer, while in relationship, do we see the hope of a brighter future. But this is absurd because we are asking young people to put their hope in a world so far removed from the world they live within.
2. The absurdity of working in youth ministry.
During this course, I questioned what I was doing as a junior high pastor more than ever. The problems seem too insurmountable. The kids are so lost. The meager hope I bring to young people in my position hardly makes a dent in and for the Kingdom of God.
I found myself wrestling with this question: What am I doing?
But here’s what I learned: All ministry is God’s ministry.
It’s not what I’m doing that even matters; it’s all about God. And what He is doing. How He is ministering. How He is calling young people back to Him. Sure, I can participate, but can I actually change hearts? Nope. Can I force or manipulate young people to develop a relationship with God? Not that would last.
At the end of the day, my job is to be a theologian — to connect the story of their lives to the story of God.
At the end of the day, this all seems absurd. Doesn’t it?
It’s all God.
And yet, somehow, by leading people into relationship with each other (adult to student), we are unfolding a taste of the Kingdom.
Somehow, by fighting for a just life and a brighter day, we are pointing to the end, where we know death has been defeated.
While this is all absurd, the passion stirred all the more to continue working in youth ministry.
Despite the absurdity, it remains simple: Young people need to know, follow, love, and relate with Jesus Christ.
And this is where I’ll continue to passionately and unquestionably work.