I talk to youth leaders all the time. From Pentecostal to Presbyterian, from coast to coast, from urban to suburban to rural, God has blessed me to be in front of all kinds of youth leaders from all kinds of backgrounds consistently throughout the year.
Someone once defined insanity as "doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results." Isn't this what typical youth ministry is doing? We have the same basic strategies as we did 30 years ago and we are getting the same basic results (maybe even less!)
Jesus was a youth leader. When Peter, Jesus and the rest of the disicples went into Capernaum only Peter and Jesus paid the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27). If you cross-reference this passage with Exodus 30:14 it becomes clear that the temple tax was only for those 20 years old and older.
If I'm reading these passages correctly, Jesus was a youth leader, with only one adult sponsor (and one really rotten kid named Judas.)
But within the span of 3 1/2 years (about the time a typical teenager is in high school minus summer vacations) he turned those teenagers into teen leaders. After the ascension here's how the big dawg religious leaders of the day viewed them, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13.
These teen leaders went on .to take the Gospel to the ends of the world. Some even went on to write books that would be included in the canon of Scripture and be used of God to build the church on a firm theological foundation.
The last few years have been filled with news of famous ministry leaders who are falling morally, abusing finances and leading by intimidation . I can't think of a time, other than the Swaggert/Bakker scandals of the 1980's, where more ministry leaders have fallen in some swirl of ethical disgrace.
But, for every leader that falls morally, there are ten who burn out emotionally and spiritually. I've seen far more ministry leaders leave the ministry out of discouragement than disgrace.
So how do we keep from being another ministry statistic? How do we finish well?
Although my race is not yet completed, God has blessed me to have been in ministry for 30 years. This week marked the 30 year anniversary of a church I co-planted and co-pastored for ten years before launching into Dare 2 Share full-time. Over the last three decades of starting a local church as well as a global ministry, God has given me a few insights into some of the keys to longevity in ministry.
Here are four of them:
On October 12th, 2019, Dare 2 Share LIVE will take place once again...and I can't wait! After two years of doing this live simulcast event, we believe its impact will just become greater as more and more churches jump on board as satellite sites. We are sensing huge momentum and it really feels like God is up to something unprecedented through this one-of-a-kind event.
Maybe you've been kicking around the idea of being a satellite site for Dare 2 Share LIVE this year. Here are 7 reasons why you should:
1. It feels like a movement, not just another event.
Dare 2 Share LIVE started as a simple idea: to do a live, coast-to-coast, teen evangelism mobilization event in 50 cities. But God blew that goal out of the water! We had 68 cities year one! Then it blew up to 93 cities last year!
We have no idea what God will bring this year but we do know that there is growing momentum toward even more saturation of the nation (and beyond!). Why? It's a Gospel advancing movement, not just another youth event. Dare 2 Share LIVE combines all the elements of movement: teenagers, worship, evangelism, prayer and God's Word! It is fast, fun and focused on energizing the Church to mobilize youth to Gospelize their world!
2. It can unite the youth leaders in your city for a common cause.
In John 17, Jesus prayed that the church would be one as He and the Father are one. The unity of the church in a given city is a living, breathing Gospel testimony that impacts all who see it. What better way to bring unity to a city than through the youth leaders!
Far too many times when I ask youth leaders about how their youth groups are doing they immediately start talking about attendance numbers. They usually say something like, "Oh pretty good! We are growing! We had 60 in attendance last week!" or, "Well, we are struggling right now a bit. We only had 15 in attendance last week."
But I am convinced that attendance numbers may be among the weaker measures of youth group strength. Those who gauge youth ministry size and youth ministry strength often make the wrong assumption that, just because teens are showing up, they are leading a healthy youth ministry. But people show up at car wrecks, fist fights and circuses too.
If you imagine Jesus as the ultimate youth leader (because the majority of the disciples were most likely teenagers), you can clearly see he had a different philosophy of youth ministry strength. Think of the crowds that followed Jesus as those who show up in a typical youth group meeting and think of his disciples as his student leadership team. When you begin to read the Gospels through these lenses, it becomes obvious that Jesus didn't gauge his impact by attendance at all.
As a matter of fact there are several times he seems to try to get rid of the crowds so that he could invest in his leadership team. Luke 15:25-27 is a powerful example of this, "Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.'"
"So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
Low pay, high stress, discouraging results, no respect, church politics, parental expectations, self-induced pressure....The list of reasons why many youth leaders quit youth ministry could go on and on.
Instead of New Year's resolutions let's talk about a youth ministry revolution.
Year's ago I devoured Mark Senter's classic book, The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry. In it he predicted a transformation of the way youth ministry is done. He predicted a massive re-ordering of youth ministry back to the ways of the early church.
This outstanding book was written in 1992 but, sadly, we're all still waiting for the revolution to come. If anything youth ministry seems like it has become more and more institutionalized over the last 27 years or so since Senter's book was written.