Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Busy Youth Minister: Busyness Check

Josh Cousineau is a church planter at Redemption Hill in Auburn, Maine, coordinator of the Lead Conference, and a former youth minister. This piece is reposted with permission from

Busyness; It has become almost a badge of honor in Christian circles today. Everyone says they are, and we use it as the excuses to get out of almost anything. This wonderful little word has become a critical part of our vocabulary, on a far too often basis. It seems like everyone is saying they are busy, even the high school drop out who works 14 hours a week at the mall (this is a real story!).

At the root of all this busyness is something more then simply cultural lingo: there is a heart issue. In Tim Chester’s book, A Meal with Jesus, he talks about how meals are enacting the mission of Jesus. When we eat with people we are able to share the gospel with them in a deeper way than simply handing them a tract, or knocking on their door and telling them about Jesus. Yet one of the excuses we often make for not living on mission is, yeah you guessed it; busyness!  Chester offers this helpful examination:
Above all examine your heart. God did not make a mistake when he spun the world into being, making twenty-four-hour days instead of twenty-five-hour ones. He expects you to serve him and glorify him in those twenty-four hours. But he doesn’t expect you to do twenty-five hours’ work in a day. The person responsible for your busyness is you. We’re too busy because we’re trying to do more than God expects.
  • You may be too busy because you’re insecure and need to control life. But God is great and cares for you as a sovereign heavenly Father.
  • You may be too busy because you fear other people, and so you can’t say no. Bot God is glorious, and his opinion is the one that matters.
  • You may be too busy because you’re filling your life with activity in a desperate attempt to find satisfaction. But God is good, and the true source  of joy.
  • You may be too busy because you’re trying to prove yourself through your work or ministry. But God is gracious and justifies you freely through Christ’s finished work.

You’ll never create time for people until you address the issues in your heart and find rest in God’s greatness, glory, goodness and grace.
When we dig deep, we quickly understand we are busy, because there is a lack of trust in God. So think through the four above points that Chester makes and see where your heart is. If not you may just end up spending your whole life busy, but doing nothing much for the Kingdom of Jesus!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Itchy Ears Want Works

Joel Brooks of the Gospel Coalition offers some honest insight about how ‘itchy ears want works’. Check it out here.

I confessed earlier that there were times in my past that I preached works while just assuming grace. The results that I saw from this were substantial. People loved it! I first thought that sermons like this would turn people off and drive them away, but how wrong I was. Especially younger Christians cannot get enough of it. It grieves me to look back and think of those times I looked out at the masses, got caught up in the moment, and briefly abandoned the gospel in order to scratch some itchy ears.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2012 Rooted Conference: Adopted - The Beauty of Grace

­ Rooted: A Theology Conference for Student Ministry is thrilled to announce and unveil our next conference which will take place August 9-11, 2012 in Birmingham, AL at the Cathedral Church of the Advent. Our theme, Adopted - The Beauty of Grace hits at the core of the theological crisis in youth ministry, the emotional state of youth culture and the centrality of the Gospel of grace. Those interested can REGISTER NOW.

It is no secret that youth ministry in America is failing. We have all heard the statistics. According to some statistics, 70% of youth group alumni will not return to church after high school. Christian Smith, Kenda Creasy Dean, and others have been champions for youth ministry in the way that they have identified theology - the message - of youth ministry as the problem. The general theology of religious, American teens is encapsulated in the term therapeutic, moralistic deism. The message of much of youth ministry centers on what students do - performance and behavior - and less on what Jesus did on the Cross. As Adam McLane aptly writes, there is little Good News in the Gospel of youth ministry.

First and foremost, the 2012 Rooted Conference will focus on the same old story, the message of the Cross. We will talk about how the Gospel of grace must serve as the axis of what we teach, how we minister, and how we relate to teens and youth culture.

Rooted believes that the game-changer in youth ministry is simple: it’s the infusion and influence of the Gospel of grace in everything we do and teach. The full Gospel - the reality that Jesus’s death on the Cross means He absorbed all of our shortcomings, sins, and flaws and, in turn, gives us His righteousness - is what kids need. Understanding how deeply and perfectly God loves them in spite of their sin is what will yield a desire for holiness, love, justice, and mission.

The Gospel permeates the essence of the 2012 Rooted Conference. We specifically will talk about how this message relates to the current emotional state of youth culture. More on that later.


Thursday, August 9 – Saturday, August 11, 2012

(before February 1)
$150 (before June 1)
$200 (after May 31)
The cost includes conference admission, light breakfast, and dinner on Thursday and lunch on Friday. Full refunds for cancellations will not be given after August 1.

Cathedral Church of the Advent
2017 Sixth Avenue North
Birmingham, AL 35203

People ministering to students, including youth pastors, college ministers, teachers, coaches, and volunteers who:
  • Need to be refreshed by the message of God’s grace
  • Want to serve students better with the Gospel
  • Care about the Gospel being central in the Church
  • Wish to connect with other student pastors
  • Want to grow in theology

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dinner Without Food

Kenda Creasy Dean, author of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church and professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary, shares her thoughts on the Top 10 Characteristics of a Healthy Youth Ministry.

"Doing youth ministry without God is like doing dinner without food: you can come to the table, but there's nothing to eat... so why bother?"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Busy Youth Minister: Boundaries are Best

       In my own experience, youth ministry has been a process of learning to relate and connect in different ways in different seasons.  There has not been any universal outline or structure that has provided the ‘best way for going about ministry,’ but there have been many words of wisdom shared which have helped me to gain a more holistic idea of what youth ministry can (and maybe should) be.
There are many who expect youth ministers to be the role models for their children, the liaisons with the broader church, the fixers of problems related to/caused by youth culture, and the facilitators of small groups, youth groups, mission trips, retreats, and the like.  Do we wear many hats?  Yes.  Are we meant to be the One who saves our youth?  No.  But we sometimes begin to live out of the subconscious belief that we can and must.  Henri Nouwen may say it best with this:

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life.  We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.  The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.

       -from ‘In the Name of Jesus’

One of the most important shifts that has occurred for me in relation to my ministry is realizing that it is not my ministry.  Am I responsible for my job?  Certainly.  Am I responsible for the salvation, wellness, connectedness, and health of the youth of the world?  No.  The kingdom of God is at hand!  Jesus is working and moving all the time to bring his beloved children unto Himself, and he uses any and everything we do- or don’t do- to accomplish His purposes.  We are invited to trust Him with this instead of trusting ourselves and believing that everything is up to us (and within our control).
We are invited to die to the deep pride within us that makes us believe (even if unconsciously) that we can be all things to all kids (and parents).  I really think we are invited to see ourselves in the same way that we see our kids- as the broken, needy, rescued and beloved humans we are.  Living out of dependence on Jesus instead of reliance on ourselves fundamentally shifts many of the ways we relate to our ministries.  No one can be expected to ‘have it all together’ all the time, and that means you as well.  God’s Word of grace is offered you everyday just as it is offered them.  And to love does not always mean to say ‘yes’ to every need of every youth, or of the church.  Andy Root explores well the idea of being both open and closed in relation to others in his book, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry.  We relate to one another (and our youth!) as humans, not as semi-gods.  We are filled with the Spirit, moved by His Word, reminded of our need for Him, and we open our lives and experiences up to the kids we encounter with the prayer that they will come to see and know Him through us.  We are, all the time, at God’s mercy to provide deep and real love for the kids we work with.  
Additional roles in our lives (e.g. daughter, sister, coach, student, musician, EMT, volunteer) will naturally require different boundaries and levels of investment; seek the One who made you (and others in similar positions) to guide you in making healthy boundaries in relation to your ministry- or it can easily take over your life and your other relationships will suffer.  There is no way to do this perfectly; we will always fail at trying to navigate these things (and seasons & roles in life change, so something that works well for a while may need shifting later on), but boundaries can be a huge blessing in preventing burn-out and helping to remind us that we are needy, forgiven, beloved sons and daughters of Emmanuel, who never leaves us on our own.

*One wise & practical thought offered me years ago: in seasons where you are naturally spending larger spans of time on youth ministry (40–hour workweek, hah!), you might want to consider viewing days in 3 parts (morning, afternoon, evening).  For every consecutive 3 parts spent giving to youth ministry, try to intentionally take the next part to refill/recoup/replenish/refresh.

Liz Edrington is a Youth Minister at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA.

The Busy Youth Minister

As I come up for air from the chaos of the holidays, I look ahead to the expanse of spring and see mission trips to plan, forms to collect, hotel rooms to reserve, Sunday School to teach, Bible studies to prep, interns to recruit, students with whom to meet, parents to call, laser tag to book, and Quidditch goals to build ( that just us?).  

My life is busy.

Surely I'm not the only one - if the number of books and resources geared toward helping student ministers learn time management skills and break away from their students long enough to take a day off is any indication, there are a lot of you who find yourself in the same situation.  How did it happen that the lives of Youth Ministers became characterized by chaos?

In our next series on the Rooted blog, we'll take a break from thinking about what the Gospel has to say to our students and look at what the Gospel has to say to us, the Busy Youth Ministers.