A little over a month ago a youth ministry blogger by the name of Jeremy Zach asked me, Tim Schmoyer, Mike King, Dan Haugh, and a bunch of other youth ministry folks to answer a single question: What is one thing (only one thing) you want to tell the youth pastor population?
I liked Jeremy’s get go… so I decided to indulge.
I kicked him back my answer and he posted it on his blog last week. Here’s a piece of it:
Jeremy asked me a good question. “What is the one thing you want to tell the youth pastor population?”
Nothing like narrowing it down to the nitty gritty! Boom! Pow!
Funny, I was asked this very question by a friend of mine, a fellow youth worker, just a few years ago. He said, “Jonathan, I’m about to have my first adult leader training. I want to give them something foundational for them as they minister to kids throughout the year. What one thing should I teach them?”
What would you say? Think about that for a second. “What one thing?”
I said the first thing that popped in my head. “I’d want to train my leaders to connect with kids and love them as Christ loves us.”
My friend responded, “Connect?”
“Yeah. Connect with kids. You know—take them out for coffee, go to their baseball game, get ice cream with them after school. Spending time with them and letting Christ’s love embrace them through you.”
My friend seemed to walk away surprised. I wasn’t telling him anything new. The “Connecting” concept is at least a chapter in most youth ministry books, but I think he wasn’t expecting it as the answer. I held my ground. Connecting was the most important thing.
For the next year I began to notice something. Much of the youth ministry world wasn’t making “connecting” a priority. Youth ministries were getting good at programming, giving talks, big events and even Bible studies. But not much effort was given to connecting with kids one-on-one.
I noticed this “relational ministry” void every time someone would ask me questions about “problems” in their youth ministry. They would ask me about a kid that wasn’t responding, or a student leader who had fallen into sin, or a certain type of kid that they just weren’t attracting to their ministry. In all these situations I asked one question in return, “Have you tried connecting with them one-on-one?”
In most these situations I was met with a blank stare.
After the third or fourth time this happened to me within a couple of months, I thought, “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!” I seriously wondered, How has this been overlooked…