Thursday, August 05, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Youth Ministry Buzzwords

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Youth Ministry Buzzwords”
First Published: July 22, 2003

This past Sunday evening we had the privilege of ordaining Joe Holland to the Gospel ministry. He is our new Minister of Students and Families, and the occasion of his installation to this post gave me the opportunity to explain our philosophy of student ministry here at First Presbyterian Church. We saw, from Deuteronomy 6, that our ministry to youth and families should be covenantal, relational, parental, discipleship-oriented and ordinary means of grace-based ministry, designed to edify and equip the youth of our congregation for Christian living, and assist and encourage parents in the Christian nurture of their children. Allow me to elaborate.

When I say that our ministry is covenantal, I mean that it will be primarily aimed at the covenant children of this congregation. Our first priority is not to evangelize students outside of FPC, but to minister to the children of this congregation. Our goal with our own children is (as Durham put it so many years ago) “to bring them within the covenant who are without, and to make those who are within the covenant to walk suitably to it.” In other words, we want to see the children of our church truly embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and we want to see them truly growing in grace. Of course, in every aspect of our church’s ministry we want to do the work of evangelism, and this is no different in our youth ministry. But our priority here is on the discipleship of covenant youth.

When I say that our ministry is relational, I mean that (though teaching and large group meetings will play a vital role) personal contact, in one to one meetings and small groups, and cultivation of friendships between staff, volunteers, and students will be key to effective discipleship. Hence, the all the staff of the ministry will place a premium on and evidence gifts for relational work.

When I say that our ministry is parental, I mean that our goal is not to replace parental discipleship, nor usurp it, but to assist, encourage, support, supplement and complement healthy family Christian nurture. The best “youth minister” in the world is two godly parents fostering faith of their children in the home, church and school. We aim to help that, not replace it. We know, of course, that there are many parents longing for aid with their children and we want to be a real, substantive, responsive support for them.

When I say that our ministry is discipleship-oriented, I mean that our goal is to see our young people become mature Christians rooted and grounded in grace, and not merely to facilitate large numbers of participants at youth activities, or to sponsor high-profile events. Our approach is people-based, rather than program-based, and our desire is not just to see a student pray a prayer, or experience a “spiritual high” at a camp but rather to cultivate a faith and a life that will last.

Finally, when I say our ministry is ordinary means of grace-based, I mean that we want to cultivate in our students an appreciation for the ministry of the word, the right participation in the sacraments, and the life of prayer as the normal way God brings about growth in the Christian life. That is, we want to encourage students to see the priority of worship, and indeed corporate worship, for Christian living. The ministry wants to see our youth participating fully in the worship, service, fellowship and witness of the church.

To this end, our Minister of Students and Families will work with the Session and ministry staff of FPC, in leading, organizing, and structuring the Junior High, Senior High, and College Ministries in such a way as to develop our students' spiritually in an atmosphere that is challenging, exciting, creative, and inviting. He will give spiritual leadership and oversight to the entire student ministry. Among many other things, he will aim to bring enthusiasm and energy to the various student activities of the Church; to see that the youth staff reach out to non-participating students and seek to draw them into the life of the youth fellowship; to develop and maintain strong relationships and fellowship with the students of the church, and encourage this among the youth staff; to cultivate team ministry; and to work with parents to encourage healthy patterns of Christian living, and nurturing good Christian family life and parenting practices.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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