- Neo-Youth Ministry Series Introduction
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 1: “Youth”
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 2: “Ministry”
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 3: The Youth Minister
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 4: The Youth Minister as Theologian
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 5: The Youth Minister as Pastor
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 6: Youth Minister as Spiritual Director
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 7: The Youth Minister as Prophet
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 8: The Youth Minister as Youth Advocate
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 9: The Youth Minister as Interpreter and Synthesizer
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: Education and Teaching
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: The End of Bait and Switch
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: Local and Contextual
While many full-time youth workers carry the title of “Youth Pastor” I wonder how many take the role of “pastor” seriously. If we are going to forge a new, authentic way of doing youth ministry, then the youth minister must take seriously their role in the pastoral care of the congregation. I believe that some of the most beautiful times in the lives of congregations are when a member gets seriously ill or dies. It is at these times, when the rug is pulled out from under families, that the church shuts up and starts putting up by caring for their families in any way they can. An elderly lady gets sick, so the church supplies an army of casseroles because the husband never cooked a day in his life. A husband passes away suddenly and the church takes care of the yard until the wife can decide what she needs to do. People go and visit hospitals. People pray. Yes, times of crises seem to me to be when the church is at it’s best. How can youth ministers be pastors in such ways on a regular basis?
To students in times of real crisis. Yes, there will probably be that time in your ministry where someone dies or gets a serious disease or gets pregnant. In these moments we must be present. We must speak carefully. We must listen deeply. We must not offer insights into the “whys” of the event but speak always of the “now and always” of our presence.
To students in times of fake crisis. More often, there will be the college rejection, the breakup, the failed test. As people who have come through such things, we know they truly are not the end of the world. But that doesn’t mean we need to tell our kids it isn’t a big deal. In the moments when their worlds are shattered, we must be present, just as in any real crisis. If we have been doing a good job of discipling our students, then perhaps they will take such things in stride. And if they feel like the weight of the world is crashing down on them, perhaps we haven’t been doing as good of a job as we thought. Regardless, in the middle of a painful event is not the time to talk about things that are really more important.
To parents in times of crisis. Of course, when tragedy strikes, whole families are shattered. We must be present to parents and families as well.
To people “outside” of our ministry. Yes, I know it is the pastors’ job to go visit sick people in the hospital. But we learn so much in the midst of adversity. It might be once every 5 years or more that a tragedy strikes a youth in the congregation. But on a weekly basis there are elderly people in the congregation who are in the hospital, dying, or slowing losing the ability to live independently. Being present in such times makes us humble, makes us better people. It makes us more like Christ.
We often think of pastoral care during times of great adversity and crisis. And while such times are difficult and potentially powerful, they often come few and far between in youth ministry. But pastoral care is nothing more than truly caring for people. Certainly we are called to that with the students and parents in our churches.
To forge a neo-youth ministry, youth ministers must lose the sometime fulfilling roles of administrator, financial planner, budgeter, and event coordinator to get back to the business of caring for people. We need to become pastors again. Show your students and parents what truly matters to you: them.