So, I sit here in bed right now, at 2 am in the morning, 2:09 to be exact, and I can't sleep. I'm tired, hopelessly tired, but I can't sleep. I feel like this is one of those moments where God is telling me I need to stay up.
I've been doing youth ministry now going on 2 years. As of the 2 year mark, I will essentially no longer consider myself a 'newbie'. Those that have been in the business for decades will disagree, but I usually don't listen to them anyways, so why start now, right? When I was growing up, I went to the coolest youth group in town. We had our own youth house, 120+ students, the most awesome relational Youth Pastor a group could ask for, and we had fun. We had a lot of fun. There was always some new and exciting game that we could play, some good snacks for the taking, and countless trips that were so packed full of excitement I could hardly contain myself. Now, there was a time for learning about Jesus and the impact he could have on our lives too. But it was after the fun. I repeat, after the fun.
Now, I don't want to make it seem like my youth pastor was doing anything wrong. This worked wonderfully many years ago. It was an escape for students away from their parents, from school, from life. It gave them a different outlook on what Church could be, and it definitely had it's place. But after taking over for my youth pastor 2 years ago, I'm realizing that what worked when I was in youth group doesn't work anymore. I've been working on a stale model, one that God has been ever so gently and lovingly poking and prodding me to get rid of since the day I started. I really can't put my finger on what to call this model, but to put it in a nutshell....
1. Fun game where people can have a good time. I have so many of these stored up in my head I could hold 5 summer camps and not repeat one of them. I think the original purpose of them in youth ministry was to let non-christian teenagers know this was a fun place where you wouldn't have your head cracked open with a Bible. I've been labeling it "connecting time".
2. Pow-wow - This is where the real connecting time takes place among the entire group. We get in a circle, go around the room and the object is simple, person with the ball is the only one allowed to speak, and you get to say a pow(something bad that happened to you during the week) and a wow(something good that happened to you during the week). I've seen God do amazing things during these times but I've also seen them completely ruin the meeting because people lose what small focus they might have had.
3. Snack Time - Self explanatory.
4. Activity - This has always been the one I've struggled with, an activity which is still fun and game-like, but coincides with whatever lesson is planned for the night. My old youth pastor was a genius at this, and I've tried to emulate him in more ways than I obviously know how, and this is not one of my strong points.
5. Lesson - Sometimes an object lesson(I'm good at those), sometimes a talk on a verse, sometimes a group discussion on some current news that can be related to the Bible or etc. etc. etc. I could pull these out of my butt for 10 years and still be constipated. I stress about these lessons every week that I won't be able to get my message across with enough godly, cultural, or clear emphasis and sometimes, I don't. I DO lose sleep over this.
There, biggest nutshell you've ever seen. But I digress(I've always wanted to say that, but I really have no idea what it means). This model, which is a warped emulator of the model that I grew up with, does not work anymore, and even more, I'm not good at it. So what's next? What needs to change? 2 years, 3 churches later, I'm praying fervently that I'm interpreting correctly what God is downloading into my soul.
I've been so in love with the model I grew up with that I couldn't stand the thought of changing it. Well, as I sit here hitting a brick wall, not just in my sleep but in my soul and my ministry, I'm realizing that God is telling me it's time to change things up. He's prepared me for 2 years about what needs to start, what needs to finish, and what needs to be put to rest. The model I loved growing up, the model that helped form me as a Christian and as an individual, the model that I hold on to with all my heart as a comfort zone, it needs to be put to rest.
I feel blessed that after 2 years I am confident that God has finally put me in a place where I can be supported, encouraged, and ultimately guided in my decisions as a youth pastor. I know that this is a decision that I need to make to continue to grow as a Christian and as a Pastor. When I started, the first things that I read were all from Doug Fields(Youth Ministry guru), and all focused on Small Group ministry. He said that this is what the next step in youth ministry is. I quickly threw it aside, but I'm now realizing that this is the path that this ministry needs to take.
I have always craved a volunteer support staff, but in my current model had no where to put them. If they're leading small groups it will give them not just something to do but it will give the students someone to connect with other than me. I can't connect with all of them, and as the ministry grows I won't be able to. A small group leader can.
With a new church comes new students, and I this could potentially save them from falling through the cracks and not feeling connected with a large body of students. A smaller group would solve that problem and would give them a chance to open up in a safer environment.
My biggest struggle with my current model has been feeling that students don't get anything out of a big group lesson. A small group will give them the chance to learn on a more one-on-one basis.
What exactly this new ministry is going to look like, I have no idea. I have a big picture that God has given me, and along with all other things that He has downloaded into me, this just feels right. Right now, I just pray that I can get the guidance that I need to go in that direction, and keep me out of that old comfy comfort zone.
Right now, it's 3 am and I'm scared out of my mind. I am stoked that God is doing amazing things in my heart so he can then do amazing things in this ministry, but to do that I have to cut the safety net that I've clung to so hard for so long. Yet I know that if He truly is telling me this, then he's gonna catch me. He's really gonna catch me.