Thursday, August 17, 2006

Time for Another Post

Time sure flies when you are having fun. That’s what I’ve been doing lately. Summers in youth ministry are so fun. Busy, and difficult sometimes, especially with a family. But always fun. It’s pretty tough complaining to someone how tired you are because your job kept you out on the lake with teenagers all day the day before. And, man, that sun burn hurts!
We hit the ground running in this, our fourth year of youth ministry at Alum Creek. God has really blessed us in our endeavor here at the Creek. It has been such a great fit for both us and the church. We love doing what we do, and we love the people that we do it with.
We’ve got about 150 folks here at Alum Creek. The 150 barrier is a tough one for us to break through. I came on here three years ago as their first full-time youth minister. In Churches of Christ, we kind of have an odd way we go about hiring and firing our ministers. I guess it has advantages and disadvantages over other ways, so it probably evens out.
In our churches, we tend to do what everyone else is doing that seems to “work” in one way or another. That’s how full-time youth ministers became popular. Many churches believe them to be sure-fire fixes for their youth. Sometimes we’re brought into fix some kids. Sometimes it’s to find some more kids. And sometimes, it’s just to love the kinds. More than not, it’s probably a little bit of all of them.
It’s really an amazing thing our smaller churches do when it comes to staffing their ministry positions. It takes a lot of money now a days to pay someone a full-time salary. Some of us get paid a lot. Too many not enough, but most of us fall right there in the middle with everyone else.
One concern that has really been heavy on me for about two years now, is the necessity of a full-time youth minister. I think the idea of a full-time youth minister is obvious in larger churches where a full-time staff person (or persons) are needed to keep up the programming aspect of skiing trips, retreats, and Bible studies. However, at smaller churches like mine, with anywhere from five to twenty-five kids, sometimes it’s not so obvious. All ministers have to answer that question, “What do you do all day?” but this may be an especially relevant question for those youth ministers like me who are at smaller churches.
I think that at 150 members, most churches are poised for two full-time ministers. However, a church of 150 members probably does not need a second minister with a narrowly defined job description – such as working with the teens. Unless the teens and their families constitute 50% of the church membership, there are probably other responsibilities that she would be as equally qualified to cover. More smaller churches (perhaps our included, though we are approaching that 50% number – more like 35%) need to flirt with the idea of co-minister rather than youth minister.
The phrase “youth minister” carries many connotations that probably do more harm than good. The inferiority perception of the youth minister versus the preaching minister often leads to an imbalanced leadership structure and direction. More churches should contemplate co-ministers – sharing in preaching, teaching, pastoring, and other responsibilities that he or she may be gifted towards.
This may make no sense at all if you are not in Churches of Christ, or if you attend a larger or smaller church than what I am referring to. If a church falls between 150 and 300 members, I think they would be well-served to consider the implications of having a ministry staff whose direction is more widely defined and whose talents can be better utilized. .

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