sins of my youth ministers
A friend of mine wrote a brilliant piece for her blog that everyone should read. She brought up a shortcoming of youth ministers that intrigued me and struck me as just the tip of the iceberg. Moments after reading her post I remembered a sermon I heard in Jr. High entitled “Rapture Practice” in which all of the students were instructed to stand on our chairs and jump into the air when, throughout the sermon, “Rapture Practice” was yelled.
Rather than forming a list of different ways youth ministers fail students, I think I can sum it up as a general failure of leadership. In every instance I remember there is a strong correlation between strength of leadership and problems.
Laziness, for instance, shows itself many different ways, and one of them is letting a moron speak because you “wanted to give them the opportunity.” Letting someone “practice leadership” is a bull crap way of delegating something.
Having been a lifetime member of youth groups and crossed over to their leadership, I see the opportunities that those before me have taken. Having discussion group times because you didn’t come up with enough material. Having a “preach prayer” at the end of your sermon because you didn’t come up with a good enough conclusion.
I, as a personal rule, won’t applaud a sermon simply because what is correct was shared. Abortion is wrong, duh. What often happens in youth ministries is a half-truth is shared because the whole truth would take too long, and we’re only giving this topic 20 minutes and a youtube video. I’m thinking specifically about a sermon on virginity with a video of someone stabbing a tomato with nails. Why would you preach to Jr. High students about second virginity when “first virginity” still makes most of them giggle.
The truth of the matter is that when I think of who my youth ministers were, it wasn’t the people on staff, and that is their shortcoming. My “on staff” youth minister didn’t know my name in my Junior year, even though I was there every time the doors were open. Those who were truly ministers to me were volunteers, and I would follow them anywhere.
I’ve had youth ministers who cheated on wives, gambled, stole money from the church, cussed at me, wouldn’t show up, and they are no longer in my life. I often wonder if they read about how teachers will be judged, as I do, and consider their impact. If you aren’t up to the task, then why did you sign up for the job?
You were talking to students who 15 years later remember intricate details to your stories and rather than leaving a lasting impression of truth and theology, you filled their brains with Cotton Eyed Joe.