I discussed at my personal blog the school shooting in Chardon, OH. I mentioned a book written by my friend Scott Larson who is the President of Straight Ahead Ministries in Massachusetts. It is entitled Risk In Our Midst: Empowering Teenagers to Love the Unlovable. I grabbed it from my bookshelf tonight, and on page 45 he talks about the divergent ministry paradigms that cause much conflict within the church. Should we view our church, and youth ministry in particular, as a fortress or a hospital?
He said in reality the church is both, Larson writes:
There needs to be a safe place for youth group kids to feel secure, loved, ministered to, and cared for before they can be expected to reach out beyond their own circle of friends. The word “sanctuary” after all means a place of refuge or safety. Establishing such an environment is a process. It doesn’t happen over night. It can take years. And the truth is, some youth groups never get there, requiring the youth leader to wait for a new crop of kids to embrace such an ethos.
Jesus poured into his disciples for more than two years before he began sending them out among the wolves. That band of twelve wasn’t anxious to leave the Master’s side or the companionship of one another any more than most youth groups will cherish the idea of bringing in strangers – especially when those strangers are different from them, when they are members of a another fold. But Jesus possessed wisdom to know when that point of necessity had come.
We need his wisdom, for in every church or youth group there exists an energy that, when not directed outward, naturally turns inward to gossip, backbiting and self destruction.
There are many barriers, some incredibly valid. I look at this through the lens of being a homeschool father, as well as, a youth ministry professional. I understand that these youth need to be reached. My call has been to the least, the last and the lost for a good number of years. As a Dad though I think… not with my kids. There are kids even in their own youth group that I’d prefer they not spend time with.
But on the other hand as they grow older there needs to constantly be preparing that goes on. How can I teach my kids to be in the world and not of it? They need to be able to reach out to fringe kids with the love of Christ.
I’m reminded when Jesus said to the crowds gathered that, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and the say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is proved justified by her deeds,’” (Matthew 11:19, ESV).
Here he was saying wisdom is proved right by how it acts. Jesus’ very act of going to those who were considered unclean by the religious elite demonstrated His wisdom. It’s ugly. It’s messy. It’s what Jesus would want us to do.
May I make a suggestion? Don’t abdicate leadership of this issue to your youth pastor. As parents it is our responsibility to train our children, and that includes ministry preparation. We need to model ministry to our kids. How are we reaching out? Wouldn’t it be better for your youth to be involved in ministry such as this in the context of your family?
Shouldn’t our homes be lighthouses as well? Because how can we expect our kids to do this if we don’t do it ourselves?