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The Tensions of Youth Ministry

Josh Griffin —  May 20, 2011 — 5 Comments

So many aspects of youth ministry leadership find themselves in direct opposition of each other. The problem is – they both can be necessary and good things. The first step is to identify the tensions of youth ministry, and then figure out how to manage them. Here are a few of them I’ve identified, feel free to add another in the comments if one comes right to mind:

Tasks vs. People
There is work to be done! And administrative work and email is part of the gig. But the tension could push you to fail people or fail at paperwork. You can’t do either one! There is a tension here, but a competent youth pastor has to fight though the tension and balance both well.

Program vs. Relationships
I love a great program – but the programs and services we offer pail in comparison to what the world offers. Yes, we need to spend time crafting and creating incredible programs and creative elements to share the timeless message of Christ. At the same time – we offer so much more than that! We LOVE people! There is another tension at stake, and neither can suffer. Get the program stuff done, even done well, and pour into people.

Crowd vs. Individual
I am a crowd person al the way, but the tension is to find time to focus on the individual. Both are critically important! I live in this tension every week, and must remember that the crowd is made up of individuals. Every moment that you spend with individuals builds your crowd, and in every crowd situation you have to focus on the individual.

One last one for now … this old post from 2008 about Workaholic vs. Passionate Worker might be a good read.

What else do you see as a tension of youth ministry?

JG

Josh Griffin

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5 responses to The Tensions of Youth Ministry

  1. Great post Josh! These are definitely the Big 3 tensions for sure! I would add….

    Parents vs. Students
    I think our job is to minister to the family first, but it’s hard sometimes when you want to keep it confidential with students, but you know the family needs to be involved. It’s a tight rope to walk sometime. You don’t want to take sides.

    Respecting the Past vs. Moving towards the Future
    Ministry is always changing, or at least should be. As culture and life changes we must keep a timeless message presented in fresh, new ways. Sometimes it means putting an end to an event that’s had a good run, or changing a structure that seems to be working, but doesn’t mean it’s the best way.

    Praying vs. Action
    This may sound weird, but I think sometimes we can tend to overspiritualize decisions that need to be made and we use the whole…..”I’m going to pray about it” phrase either too lightly or too much. Absolutely we need to have prayer at the center of our decision making and we need to be Spirit-led, but sometimes we can bog ourselves down so much that we become indecisive and almost afraid to move because we’re waiting for the writing on the wall.

    Thanks for sharing again! Great thoughts to keep in mind! Appreciate ya man!

  2. For some youth leaders in my ministry: parent vs. youth leader. They have come on to help out with all youth, but can sometimes have a hard time relating and building relationships with youth rather than chaperoning them. I’m not a parent so its been easier for me, but I see them struggling with that line.

  3. Thanks Josh for bring up the program vs. relationship piece. I know it is a great temptation to spend so much time in to programming that we forget the relationship aspect of student ministry. I think it is okay to acknowledge that we cannot offer the type program that secular venues can, but it is still important to do our best in that area. Also, I think you are totally right when you say that we have something different to offer the masses that the world cannot and that is LOVE. We need to be good at programming, but we need to be great at loving our students. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

  4. How about relationships with students vs relationships with leaders? I’m always trying to find the balance there.

  5. Its funny, as I recently was evaluating my ministry, I came up with these very tensions in my life. What I find is that tasks are safer, but people are more important. Program looks better on paper (and to the elders), but relationships are what truly change lives. And this year, I was forced to deal more with the crowd and was sad that an individual suffered because of it. Tough stuff! Thanks for helping me to process it!

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