Let me ask you a question: Are there ghosts in your church? Ever glimpse the fleeting shadow of times gone by flitting through the halls?
I don’t mean ghosts like in Casper or Nearly Headless Nick. Real ghosts aren’t…well, real. What I’m talking about are the roaming, almost hallowed, spirits of “pastors past.” A strange dynamic I see in assessing churches’ youth ministries: There is never a better youth director, pastor, ministry, program, yada-yada than the one that “used to be here.”
The reality? Often the reason why they’re no longer “in the present” is because they didn’t meet the expectations of the church, someone got aggravated, and eventually they moved on. Funny when they leave then, the spectral dust settles, someone new comes in and bam! The former person suddenly had it right. The new leadership takes over and the former becomes a holy memory.
Here’s what I hear when consulting, some “ghosts gone by” statements:
- “That’s not how he/she used to do it.”
- “Do you really think you should change that?”
- “We’re used to doing it this way.”
- “We aren’t used to doing it that way.”
- “Remember when so-and-so was here? We used to have SO many kids then.”
- “I have been a member of this church all my life. When I went through the youth group, this was THE place to be. (WHEN WAS THAT?) In the 1970′s.”
Today’s truth is that nothing in youth ministry is like it used to be, memories of past programs are generally kinder than reality, and there were problems then, too.
Let me sum this thread up: Focus on the kids your church has today. Remember that the person/programming you have now are “steps ordered by God.” Youth ministry is more than just youth group; its every single teenager who comes through the doors of the church. Each member has a responsibility towards creating a relationship with each youth. In fact, in many of our faith traditions, we took vows at that teen’s baptism or dedication to surround her/him with the example of Christ and to give them what they need for faith formation.
“Forgetting what is behind, we press on to the goal…”