Setting: A local coffee shop, which has closed specially for the gathering. A crowd of about 50 has gathered (YP barometer, so closer to 30). A diverse group. Mostly young adult. A few Gandalfs and one even has a stuffed dolphin. There are no guitars in sight. All devices are at the ready.
Two taps into a microphone… silence and then…
Fellow Youth Pastors (YP’s) we have gathered here today to remember those MIA (blank stares)… those Missing in Action (MIA). We gather to remember and honour them and to check for any signs of the growing dead in us. First, let us remember them.
Yes to long hours and little pay. Yes to days that cannot be outlined in a job description. Yes to the demand of week upon week of imaginative creativity. Yes to listening to the life scars of the young people of their community. Yes to always trying to be relevant, contextual, fun, trendy, current, energetic, great looking and coming up with the next great camp theme that would make real marketers weep.
Yes to explaining to the Church elders what the youth broke on Friday night in the church. Yes to dealing with their leaders crushing on the youth. Yes to preaching at all the services (even those early morning ones). Yes to knowing the answer to life. Yes to navigating their way through the issues of gender, race, justice and the person in the worship team who doesn’t sing that well but no one wants to tell them. Yes to forever living through high school and watching every new teen series.
Yes to coming up with icebreaker number 538 that has passed all safety tests. Yes, they are the ones who gave their life on the altar of ministry week after week, who programmed, who created, who studied, who watched, who waited (because someone’s parent is always running late), who believed every church needed a MARVELous superhero. And they said yes.
[Darwin, who has just accepted his first post as YP and is in attendance of his first gathering, stands and claps. Only to realise he alone has stood and no one else is clapping. He sits down, somewhat embarrassed. The speaker continues…]
However, today they are no longer with us. The dead has eaten them from the inside. They are still saying yes but there is no longer any life in them. They are dead Youth Pastor’s walking. And we therefore, remind ourselves again today.
To remain alive we will continue to make regular time alone with our Lord, for we can only act on what we have seen our Jesus doing and offer what has been given to us. We do this as a habit and from discipline but mostly because our soul craves to be with the lover of her soul.
To remain alive we will not believe the myth that it is all about numbers. We will count people because people count but not use it as a measure of success or allow it to define the significance of our ministry. Instead, we will trust the long obedience and the season given to us whether that be Egypt, the Wilderness or the Promised Land.
To remain alive we will invite the editing of our walk with Jesus by a trusted group or individual. We don’t do this because our senior pastor told us to or because it’s the right thing to do (although those should be reasons enough); we do this because we have an enemy who has drawn battle lines. An enemy who has us on the list. Who will use our ego, our secret sin, our past failures, our present insecurities, and our personal pet doctrines to undermine our ministry.
To remain alive we must join in the ongoing unseen conversation or the gift of prayer will remain unopened and relegated to bookend the opening and closing of our gatherings. Accept that what is missing most in our ministry is not a better worship team, a larger budget, a cooler room, or the older congregation ‘getting with it’ but the unsheathed weapon of prayer.
To remain alive we choose to leave the local Youth League where points are scored ‘for and against’ other youth groups and positions based on the size of our youth. We are kingdom builders inspired by answering the question, “How can we build up other youth groups in our area?”
We are at risk of becoming dead YP’s walking when we only study the word of God in preparation for a talk or to complete an assignment. Imagine only eating so you can regurgitate it to another. It is our daily bread. Every page shouting ‘He is risen!’ Let us listen regularly to our Lord through these living words.
We are at risk of becoming dead YP’s walking when we attend conference after conference, read blog after blog and book after book, nodding our heads in agreement, hitting the share button, quoting the quote, and remain unchanged within.
The speaker sits down. There is silence for a while and then…