On average, youthworkers can probably be most easily summed up as “the person that drove the van to Six Flags.” It’s an average; there’s a lot of good, smart work being done on one side of that median description and a lot of inept efforts that lost the church credit card and forgot to buy the day passes on the other. But it’s what we do. We drive the van to Six Flags and forget to clean it out before the seniors take it to the apple festival. You can ask anybody.
Youth ministry is one of the most staggeringly misunderstood efforts undertaken by humanity. Everyone in the church has a different view of what youth ministry is or does or should be, right down to the youthworker. The other day I was on a three-funeral home chase trying to visit with a young adult who’d lost her grandmother (I went to the wrong home first, my fault; the succeeding two visits were caused by the odd fact that our small town of 3,000 residents for some reason has two funeral homes with the same name). At the second stop (the first of the two Wilson’s Funeral Homes) there happened to be another visitation for a different member of our congregation. Mingling for a few moments before moving on, I was greeted by a member in no way involved in our youth ministry: “How’s everything in the music business?” The music business? “Terrific,” I replied.
The fact is that most churches don’t have a clear idea of what they want from a youth ministry or even what it is beyond “someone should be in charge of that.” If they even think that. In a way, this knowledge is incredibly empowering. Armed with that, the youthworker can shape the ministry into nearly anything that they please. Which can be great if they’re on the positive side of the van driver curve. And terrifying if they’re not.
All that confusion and misunderstanding can leave the youthworker unprepared and holding the bag when “real ministry” hits the fan. It’s great that you think all I do is play dodge ball, but last month one of my youth tried to kill himself with drugs he bought from another youth in our group. I appreciate the cute jokes about playing video games all night at a lock-in, but this week I had to meet with school administration about firing a teacher because of inappropriate contact with a student. And I can’t even put that stuff on my resume. I’m just expected to know how to handle it, somehow. You know, the “its” that happen that no one ever knows about and you have to figure out on your own.
How do you handle the misunderstanding and sometimes misinformation that occurs in and around your ministry efforts? Do you have a support network within your local body that knows “the truth” about your ministry? When you make ministry decisions, are you acting alone or do you have a team?
youthworker :: musician :: friend :: twitter: @elvisfreakshow
www.kevinalton.com :: www.youthworkercircuit.com