a senior pastor reflects on ym3.0

former youth pastor, now senior pastor, steve nelson wrote a great little facebook note reflecting on why he read youth ministry 3.0, and what he’s thinking about…

Youth Ministry Steve.0

“Why are you reading THAT? I thought you were through with the youth ministry phase of your life.”

Very similar words have come at me from various friends and peers over the past couple of weeks, as I have recently read Youth Ministry 3.0, a new book by Mark Oestreicher (By the way, in my opinion, every Pastor, Youth Pastor, and parent should read this book). I suppose the statements and questions of my friends make sense. After all, in my twelve years of working with teenagers exclusively, I never once knew of a congregation’s Senior Pastor, or Lead Pastor, reading anything to do with youth ministry. Now that I am the Lead Pastor of a congregation of Christ-followers, I guess the “normal” thing to do would be to forget about youth culture, youth ministry, and the youth themselves. But when have I ever fit into the box of “normal”?

Reality: youth culture is now the driving force of all culture. We can deny it, we can run from it, we can throw hymnals at it and hope to scare it away… but it is here, and for the foreseeable future, it is here to stay.

Opinion: the church in general has ignored cultural shifts for too long. Back in the day, the church, or at least individuals who followed Christ, impacted culture – not the other way around… and they sure didn’t ignore the culture. Christ-followers should be merging our faith into our culture.

Fact: congregations have been compartmentalizing youth ministry (and other ministries) instead of having one clear vision as a whole body of believers to impact culture with the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Messiah. I, personally, have done this to the extent of building a “successful youth ministry” (meaning we grew it from a small number to a larger number), as opposed to making any lasting significant impact on the culture, or in the lives of students and their families.

Truth: teenagers are functioning members of a community of faith (as well as the “body of Christ”). Youth have much to contribute to the life and mission of the church.

I refuse to continue the trend of church pastors who are out of touch with youth culture, youth ministry, and the very youth themselves that I have the high honor and responsibility to shepherd. Hiring a full-time Youth Pastor (who is doing a fabulous job by the way) does not in any way “let me off the hook.” Being the “Lead Pastor” means that I must take the lead. So, yes, along with everything else there is to be, and learn, and do… I will continue to read youth ministry books, magazines, and articles… I will continue to seek ways to have significant influence on families and culture… and I will continue to sit down with our Youth Pastor and a group of teenagers and get to know each other over a full buffet of pizza (don’t forget the pizza)!

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