Why I’m involved in youth ministry.
This picture will make sense in a bit. Read on.
I’ve been undoubtedly unqualified, yet blissfully blessed to spend the past 13 years involved in Youth Ministry. These past years have been spent in various roles with varying degrees. As the time ticks on, in the little self-evaluation that I do (assuming I can pull myself away from one of my many distractions….Oh! Squirrel!) I find that my reasons for being a Youth Minister have undergone, and continue to undergo, a metamorphosis.
In the beginning….
I grew into ministry. As a bratty teenager, I was fortunate enough to have an awesome Life Teen program and an annoyingly, unceasingly, loving Youth Minister. He was the very definition of relational ministry. Perpetually sought after me. Continually rejected by me. Faithfully persistent. I thought I was a cool kid (boy, was I wrong. I wish I could invent time-traveling solely to go back and slap my arrogant, pubescent self in the face). Eventually, Grace wore down my “cool kid” mentality. Sparing the length of details, from there, I was hooked. The Church became my anchor. Not wanting to leave the Life Teen community, I joined core after high school. I had fun being a part of the ministry. I was ‘young enough’ to reach the teens, and ‘interested enough’ in God to be, at the most, a faint tracing of an arrow pointing in His direction. From there, God gently lead me further into conversion and further into ministry. Recently, I was asked “Why youth ministry?” Thankfully, God had already been stirring this question in my heart prior to it being vocalized. For me, my ministry boils down to these 3 “Whys”.
They’re Worth It.
God gave all humanity, including the annoying self-sufficient teen, an immutable value in the act of creation. More so, Christ re-enforced, if not elevated, the value of humanity, even in it’s teenage years, by dying and winning them (and us!) on the cross, forever placing them as a trophy earned by His scars. It’s important to recognize this. Often we, maybe unconsciously, place a higher importance on those that have money, or “status” socially, or better yet those who ‘are to be seen AND heard’ (ie. adults). Christ has no partiality. In fact, He specifically request those who are often over looked; the imprisoned, the poor, the sinners, even the children. “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them…” Matt 19:14
All Hell is Thrown at Them.
One of the possible reasons teens are constantly being over looked by certain Church members or groups, why they’re labeled as “punk kids” is because, honestly, a large chunk of their culture is involved in some pretty horrible, heathenistic-leaning life styles. But it’s no wonder. Hell has hand crafted a war against them. The Devil (yep, he still exists) has fashioned a knife to solely slaughter their youthful dreaming and God-reflecting natural innocents and trust. If you think about it, I’m sure their youthful worldly innocents alone is enough to make the demons vomit. Why would they not be one of his highest priorities? Kind of a McDondonald’s-esque strategy. Get them while their young; keep them while they’re old. Sure, the modern youth culture may appear (at least to those who haven’t had the opportunity to spend time with them) to be “going to Hell in a hand basket” but when did that become a reason to not throw grace and mercy in their direction? They need all the reinforcements the Church can afford.
They Have Power.
At the risk of nerd-blasphemy, let me remind you of a tragic time in recent years. There was a dark time in geek-dom when the computer kings, Apple, well,… sucked. I know that’s hard to imagine. A company that was once on the brink of financial failure, now a juicy staple in many people’s technological diet. What happened? Steve Jobs seemingly resurrected a bad apple into a fruitful cornucopia of nerdful bliss. How? The iPod. The iPod made Apple a revolutionary company, a household name. Not by accident either, but by distinct planning. In talking about the success of the iPod, Jobs shared the mission of the iPod: To create something that would appeal to the youth of the culture. Believing that if he could capture the youth, then the rest of world would follow. As they say, the proof is in the pudding… er… the apple pie filling. Sure, the early adopters were wealthy tech-edgy businessmen and creatives, but what brought the majority, the product’s tipping point, was the youth. Teens of society embraced, drooled after this shiny musical fruit (no… I’m not talking about beans). In a domino-ing, rude-goldburg-like manner, the youth’s embrace of the iPod soon lead to the rest of society’s embrace. First the iPod, then the iMac, then iPhone, iPad, etc. Apple, built on the youth culture back, has climbed its way to a mountain that previously was only but a silhouette. The youth of this society made Apple a trend. Just look around at ear buds hanging out of most teen’s ears. Are they white? A telltale sign of the pocketed iPod pumping a soundtrack to their day. Just stop at a local coffee shop and look at the young, mustached, hipsters clicking away on their aluminum MacBooks. The Apple harvest is full, and the laborers are plenty.
At the risk of beating a dead horse (do horses get resurrected too?) I want to throw out a few more examples of the God given power of the youth culture, especially today.
In modern times, more so than any other time in history, the youth have an immense power. They are proven to have the most disposable income and what they like, they throw their money at. Often money helps things move. That, combined with the general freedom of time due to a lack of adult responsibilities, careers, and the care taking of a family, adds up to a section of society that is not only thirsting for a cause, but has the time, money, and energy to support it. This power is the reason why Kony 2012 blew up. It’s the reason why Justin Beiber is household name. They say what they like, they throw their money at what they want, the industries respond, the culture is shaped…. And now you have middle-aged soccer moms humming the lyrics to Bieber’s “Baby”. Now you have savvy businessmen in their 40’s sporting trendy fohawks. That’s power.
Hair is harmless, but what happens when this power is harnessed and used for bad? One of the backbones that helped lead Hitler and Nazi Germany up the ranks was his use of the “Hitler Youth”. Hitler knew that if he could rally the youth on his side, he’d have a true super power. He rallied them, indoctrinated them, and then unleashed them on the rest of society. In fact, historically, the Hitler Youth were used to break up church youth movements and interfere with the peoples’ church attendance. Hitler had a plan. He knew what he was doing. The youth were one of his greatest weapons to accomplish that plan. Insert “modern youth culture” in for “Hitler Youth” in that previous statement and it still seems to be just as terrifyingly accurate. Although, the pass-interference being played in today’s case isn’t for a person at all. No, today’s enemy is much more subtle and much more lethal then any man could ever be. Satan has his sights set on the world, and his key into that door lies in the persuasion and exploitation of the modern youth culture. Just ask MTV. Now, I’m not saying that all TV is from the pits of Hell. But take a look at the bulk of the media’s message. Who’s it aimed at? Largely, the youth. What’s it saying? Anything BUT their true God-given dignity, life, and calling.
The powerful potential of the youth culture is one of the reasons why all Hell is thrown at them. It’s smart military strategy. Mankind does it in combat all the time. Aim to take out the big guns, the ones with some serious firepower that could severely damage your tactical plan. And if the Church sits idly by, letting her youth be sworn into the ambiguous army of the Enemy, then she will continue to limp along, still alive (as He promised!) but beaten down on so many levels. She will never live to her great potential without the energy and passion that these teens have. As Blessed JP2 proclaimed to the youth of tho world, “Even though you are young, the time for action is now! It is time to let your light shine! Remember, Christ is calling you; the Church needs you; the Pope believes in you, and he expects great things of you!” JP2 needed them. We need them. Certainly in the future, but especially in the present. They bring life to a dying parish. They bring life to an often unmotivated and self-centered Youth Minister. I need them.
That’s why I’m involved in Youth Ministry.
What will be your reason to get involved with Youth Ministry?