So let me forewarn you that this is a pretty big can of worms. Before I dive in too deep with my personal views and opinions (which admittedly are still in flux) allow me to give you a little background that has led to me contemplating this topic for the past few weeks.
- A good friend of mine and fellow Youth Ministry worker, Brian Ford, recently wrote an article on this particular subject.
- I took advantage of the opportunity to call into Tim Schmoyer’s blog where he hosts a live online chat on Friday’s. This week’s particular topic of discussion dealt with this same topic initiated by Brian’s article. You can actually listen to the discussion that took place (CLICK HERE).
So here are my scatter-brianed thoughts on this subject. First of all, I am not opposed to sports activities, academic clubs, social justice causes, Boy Scouts, or the like. I actually have encouraged students in my previous youth ministries to get involved in them and will encourage my own son to do the same. However, I absolutely cringe when students tell me they are going to miss a Youth Ministry activity because of them. Now don’t over react. I can handle a few times here or there, but when it becomes habitual or they miss for several months due to another commitment, my concern becomes their priorities. Have you ever had one of your students tell a coach they are going to miss every Wednesday of practice because of Youth Group? Or that they can pracitce during the week but will miss every game because of their commitment to church on Sundays? Things that make you go hmmmmm…
Now I am totally with you that it’s not about program competing against program. I can’t stand Youth Ministries that are program driven. But just like football practices and games are designed to breed better athletes and football players, Youth Ministry should be designed to breed students that are drowing deep in their faith and going wide with the Gospel. (Check out the Deep & Wide Youth Ministry philosophy for more details.)
Another pet peeve in this whole ordeal is Youth Leaders who feel like they can’t compete with the extras in life. I’m not saying that it won’t be difficult, but we are fighting for the souls of the teenagers we can influence, and beyond that the friends that they can ultimate influence that they know in their social networks. Again, great that they have these other commitments, but are they looking at them as opportunities to take the Gospel to their friends hey are spending time with there? Are they staying committed to growing in their faith outside of these commitements? Are we, as Youth Leaders, taking the time to invest in them outside of their busy schedules if they can’t make a group meeting?
I get it…we can’t always compete on the entertainment value with other activities. In fact, students are attracted to the slightest possibility that they could get a scholarship (in case you weren’t aware, I don’t think there are many Youth Ministries handing out full ride scholarship to D-1 schools). But what we have to offer that those other activities don’t have, the Truth. The absolute, straight from God, in the Flesh, Truth. Nothing else can hold a candle to it.
So where does this leave us? I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure. But I know this: no matter what the competition is, no matter what sacrifices we may have to make, we are in a war for the souls of every student we come in contact with and by extension, every student they know. It will never be easy, but if we give in to the foe known as extra-curricular activites, how can we stand against the true enemy? Satan and his evil regime.
Will you join the battle? Will you fight for the lives and souls for students all around you? The competition isn’t what matters. It’s whats at stake that we need to care about.