Subscribe

Q&A: What to do during your first night in youth ministry

Topic / Leadership

Luke McFadden asks for some input about what to do with the youth group on his very first night as a youth pastor.

I’m starting at my first ministry position this coming week. What should I do for the first night? I know it is important to build relationships early on in ministry, but I don’t want to neglect the Word either.

I highly recommend that you don’t come in and start an in-depth Bible series on the first night. Although I totally understand what you’re saying, that first night no one is thinking, “I wonder how well this guy can teach the Bible?” Instead, everyone is thinking, “Who is this guy and why should I listen to him?” So, take the evening just to introduce yourself. Share about your teenage years, your family, how you came to know Christ, what God has been teaching you lately, your hobbies, interests, etc. Also come prepared to ask them questions, especially if it’s a smaller group. Give every individual student special attention as they go around the room and share a little bit about themselves. While they share, show interest by asking a follow-up question to something they say to learn more details. For example, if they say they like to read, ask what books they’ve recently read. Or, if they’re on a sports team right now, ask them how they’re doing so far this year. Stuff like that. Basically, even if you’re not a super-relational guy, you kinda need to be that first night because that’s when you’re going to set all the first-impressions. Be intentional about what first-impressions you leave. The main one you want kids to sense is that you’re a real person they can relate to who cares about them individually. The old cliche really is true: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

———————————————————————-

Have a youth ministry question you’d like me and other readers to answer? E-mail it to me! Please keep your question brief and to-the-point. Thanks!


Posted on June 5, 2008

  • I would agree. That’s a wonderful way for everyone (not just youth) to get to know you- it’s the easiest way to show them that you’re real, and often sharing your background will make it clear why you’re in youth ministry. I try to do a mini-version of this when we have new interns/volunteers that will be assisting with youth events consistently.

  • i know mr. Mcfadden,
    i think this is a great list and a great reminder about starting off a ministry well. sharing hopes, visions, ideas, fears, triumphs…just really opening oneself to their students and volunteers.

    i think the comment about giving the Word its due (direct quote is neglecting the Word) is a interesting one. if we live our lives in the presence of the Lord and let that over flow you should never have to worry about neglecting it as it becomes a part of our speech and even a part of our breathing

  • Kenny

    I totally disagree! There is plenty of time before and after bible study to build relationships. You could maybe have the kids come a little earlier for a meet and greet time, but you should never substitute teaching THE WORD OF GOD for anything like that. I would highly recommend that you do teach an in depth Bible study. A new senior pastor would not take the first sunday to get to know his congregation. The youth need to be challeged just as much as the adults. Youth these days are not being taught the Bible in depth and are not expected to know anything either. I would suggest that you preach the word brother! God will bless that.

  • @ Kenny

    i would like to ask you why a senior pastor wouldn’t do a sunday to get to know his congregation? also am curious at your thoughts of what is ‘in depth Bible Study”….. i agree with the ‘plenty of time’ for building relationships…but i would say that there is plenty of time for Gods Word all the time in everything we…and if we are ‘imitators of Christ’ we use every situation, relational, chill time, get to know ya, what ever time…to breath the word of God.

    (i had about four more paragraphs here asking more define questions…but i’m tired and not sure they were completly relevant…so this one will do)

  • Russ Bowlin

    Kenny- I understand your desire to preach the message of God and study the word of God, but I struggle to think that Christ didn’t put a good amount of time getting to know his disciples…I think the fact that he appeared to them, not the people that killed him, proves that he was concerned about them and wanted them to know that he expected them to go on… without building a relationship, there’s not very much you can do besides preach…and I don’t mean in a good way…if youth don’t see you as a person (not just another person lecturing them) they won’t feel comfortable with you, and might not be as attentive when you do talk to them. I think that making a relationship with youth is like setting a foundation for a building. Your desire to preach and do ‘in depth’ things are wonderful goals, but without a solid foundation of understanding and credibility, I wonder how long the walls and roof (aka scriptural teaching) will stand? I also feel that it’s important to feel out your group- get to know them, what are their interests, needs…this will help you focus your Bible studies and messages. Find out what makes them tick before you start teaching on heavy topics… treat them like people and peers, not just clean slates to fill with what you think is important. Once you’ve laid the foundation, then go to work by teaching.

  • Kenny

    Russ- A relationship will still be built with the kids if you do not take the first service there to meet and greet. There is time before and after church as well as planned events to build these relationships. Scriptural teaching will stand because God will allow it to stand. Its is only when we get away from this that the “walls and roof” will fall in. I do agree that building relationships are important. I just do not think it is necessary to replace a service to do so.

    Brit- My idea of an in depth Bible study is diving into the Word. Go verse by verse through a book and tear it apart to learn to understand what God thought it important for us to know. I agree that we, as Christians, are ‘imitators of Christ’ and should spend every moment of our day trying to grow closer to Christ. But not everyone is a Christian. This is why a senior pastor would not use a Sunday to get to know his congregation and why brother Luke should not either. You are taking away an opportunity to evangelize to lost people and students.

  • @ Kenny: You’re not “taking away an opportunity to evangelize to lost people and students.” As Russ mentioned, you’re setting a context for it so that your teaching later doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

    I’m not against teaching on that first night at all — I just think it needs to be in the form of a personal story about what God’s been teaching you or how He’s been working in your life. These types of testimonies are certainly a form of worship because you’re publicly attributing worth to God and sharing Him with others in a real-life context. There’s no reason why this has to be watered down. In fact, too often Bible teachers substitute sterile exegetical Bible study for meditation and reflection on how God’s been interacting with their life. Both are equally important! You should never have one without the other.

  • @ Kenny

    this is something i have been really struggling with as of late. and i’ll be honest hear and if need be pray for my mysticism and or liberalism…
    is not the Bible Living, Breathing, every permeating those who ‘are in me’ (christ)? i believe…i teach it…i try to breath it…
    i hear and read doctrinal statment’s that say and even hold scripture above the ONE who breathed it

    but if this is our Word….why do we culturally break it down to nothing more than a mere text book for good/right living. something to be ‘torn into or tear it apart to learn…” i mean i do tear about Calvin and Luther, McManus, Bell, Neitche, Piper and Peiper, the Gospel of Thomas, Shepard of Hermus, the Didache, books that have some splendid (minus Gospel of Thomas) things to say about our Saviour and King…these are the book i tear apart and rip into and try to find truth…because it is hidden amidst human flaw….to tear away is to remove human stain

    in my opinion to tear into the bible is to reduce this living breathing beautiful book into NOTHING more than a text book for right living…and Mardel’s, or any christian bookstore, has right living for dummy’s on its book shelf now aday’s

    don’t get me wrong i know there is great need for studying the word and truly seeking what God is saying….but Jesus nor any of the Apostles, nor Apostolic fathers after them…nor even Solomon thought that God would keep the truth away from us if we truly wanted to see and truly wanted to know… James 1.5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

    when you reduce the bible down to nothing more than some text to find an answer to or and answer about you place it merely as something that will be looked IN and TO

  • [ comment removed at Josh’s request ]

  • Kenny

    Yes the Bible is living and breathing. But it should be taught in an expositional way. Other wise things will be taken out of context and a person could make a verse mean anything that he wants it to. However, how I prefer to study and preach the Word is not really relevant to what we are discussing.

    As far as meditation and reflection during a service, I am under strong conviction that Gods Word outweighs an individuals personal experience. Where these things are important to the individual, there is no reason to substitute your story for Gods inerrant Word. Now I am not against building a relationship with the students at all. It is important, just not during a service time. Like I said before there will be plenty of time to do that. You will earn the trust of the students by teaching the Word accurately. Saying that biblical teaching will fall on deaf ears is not trusting that God is going to work.

  • Russ Bowlin

    I want to refer back to Luke’s original question:
    “I’m starting at my first ministry position this coming week. What should I do for the first night? I know it is important to build relationships early on in ministry, but I don’t want to neglect the Word either.”

    When did Luke say that he didn’t know what to do for his first night of Bible study, or his first youth worship time? I stress again, and I’ve learned this the hard way, that it’s important to get to know your youth before you start making decisions on what they need to hear.

    I don’t know about others, but many of the youth I desperately desire to reach, only stay as long as the official “program” is going on- the miracle of the cell phone (I say that sarcastically), has eliminated much of that after time…and many of my youth are usually ‘fashionably late.’ That is why I think it’s important to take time to get to know each other. I agree with Tim, don’t neglect your testimony. The first sermon I ever gave wasn’t really a sermon…it was my testimony. To this day, I still can’t make it through the story of how I came to know Christ without getting emotional. That’s real, I’m not sure youth desire someone that’s full of head knowledge, but shys away from connecting with people.
    Josh- perhaps my wording wasn’t the best, when I talked about a relationship being the foundation, I probably should have said a mutual understanding…not necessarily a friendship. I would agree that you cannot hope to get very deep with a youth that you are only friends with, but I’m not sure that means you can never be a friend…maybe a better word would be an ally for youth. I’m not sure that we should give up on humans because we’re imperfect.
    I take Jesus’ words to Peter as a great guide for ministry: “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
    “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
    Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
    Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
    He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
    Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

    The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
    Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

    Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:15-17 NIV

  • ok gotta be quick cause i’m heading out the door…so pardon the not so eloquent words

    @Josh
    i have to disagree with one thing…and its the wording in which you choose to use (which is how almost all ministers think) WE ARE NOT LEADERS. we are called to be servants. this mindset of leadership is the most ungodly heretical concept that has permeated the church today i believe. Christ did not see himself as equality in the sight of God something to be above so in humbling himself to that of a servant served even unto death. in just about every epistle it screams about being servants. why do we feel we lead anyone or anything…Moses the greatest ‘leader’ (below only Jesus) we see that Moses is called a servant. Joshua 1. to claim leadership is to claim authority…we have no authority except that by christ so that no man may boast…(i know this is language semantics…but at the same time its not…we place to big of a role on our role in the kingdom and asserting our selves as leaders…when we are to be servants as he was a servant.

    @Russ
    the issue i had with your comment about foundation is that there is but one foundation…and that is Christ. (not saying you don’t know that) but our foundation is always of christ through christ and in christ… we can set up structures and beams and supports upon this foundation that helps us invite and do ministry…but the foundation of christ….anything else is pharacsaic (not a word) and heretical. ministers (as we have all agreed on) need to stand on that which is completely True and Biblical and that is the Foundation of Christ.

    here is a link to something similarly i have writen on the topic
    http://ypguybrit.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/why-we-shouldnt-imitate/

  • Russ Bowlin

    Brit- I’m not sure I understand what you mean by pharacsaic…did you mean to use pharisaic? which dictionary.com defines as
    1. of or pertaining to the Pharisees.
    2. (lowercase) practicing or advocating strict observance of external forms and ceremonies of religion or conduct without regard to the spirit; self-righteous; hypocritical.

    I feel that my illustration of the foundation has been taken out of context- you are merely creating a common ground on which to do ministry…you’re breaking the ice, getting to know someone where they are, and then using that as a springboard into ministry. I agree with you on the point of the ONE foundation, but I’m not so sure you read the post i made above yours, explaining my lack of explanation of the use of “foundation”
    Also, I skimmed your imitate entry, and I’m short on time and headed out the door, could you explain how it ties in?

  • @ Josh: You said that building a foundation of relationships is not biblical, but you gave no biblical support for it. Could you please show me in scripture where you’re basing that idea?

    About the church drop-out rate: First, you’re swallowing a statistic that you believe from someone else who’s just creating hype. The actual facts are not even close to 90%. Granted, a lack of theology does indeed contribute to the ones who leave, but all the studies show that an even bigger influence for students leaving the church is the lack of a personal connection. They often have that connection in youth group, but after moving away to college and transitioning out of the youth ministry, that personal contact is no longer there, which is why relationships are again the context for communicating the depth of God’s Word.

    @ Kenny: I think your idea of meditation is tainted by eastern religions and mysticism. Check out Psalm 1:2; Joshua 1:8.

    @ Brit: I think Russ’ use of “foundation” could be better understood as “context,” just as I used the word in my above comment to Josh.

    @ Everyone: When it really comes down to the main issue here, whether we start off with an in-depth hardcore Bible study on the first night or not isn’t going to make or break a ministry. It may be more of a personality issue more than anything else. Maybe for some of you, the best thing you can do is start off with an deep soul-wrenching sermon, and so you should! For others of us, we share God’s Word best in conversation and sharing life together. It’s not right or wrong — it’s how God created us and gifted us in ministry.

  • I agree with Tim. The first night of all of my new churches have been spent talking about myself, my testimony and what God has put on my heart for the new youth group. Nothing major, just kept it light. This is a great formula, especially if you have parents in the audience and people who didn’t get a chance to meet you before you started there.

    As for “diving into the word”, I think a good testimony and what God is doing in your life can be just as powerful as breaking down the word.

  • So today has been quite a day! God has officially slapped me into submission. I have been deeply humbled by this blog post, and had my reply removed. I posted my reply in a prideful manner, and with a very fleshly motivation. Even though I may not entirely agree with ‘everything’ posted in this blog post, I shouldn’t have replied in ‘the flesh’ trying to prove you other men wrong, but rather posted a reply in efforts to help Luke with ministry question. Luke I apologize for contributing to the ranting and raving completely off the topic of your question. I humbly ask for Luke, Tim, and all of your forgiveness in the manner and motivations of my posts.

    In His Grip,

    Josh

  • Really, I didn’t intend to post but this is a needed conversation. It’s a shame that this has broken down into a relationship vs. preaching debate. I doubt either one of the sides involved would abandon either of the two.

    However, I’ve got to weigh in and ask how anyone could question the fact that the most important thing any minister does in any setting is proclaim the Word.

    Don’t get me wrong. Relationships are great. They can model and reinforce the truths taught in teaching. But again, if one had to choose between the two the only legitimate option is giving the priority to preaching.

    I was stunned to read someone doubt the durability of Scriptural instruction if relationships aren’t in place. My mind goes to the book of Romans. Paul had no relationship with the congregation at Rome and yet the book of Romans is one of the most rich in all of scripture.

    Furthermore I would like to know just what it is we think we offer when we hold out a relationship with us. Speaking spiritually, a relationship with you or I doesn’t have anything on the table. Paul was clear – “There is none good, no not one.” (Romans 1:10) He, like us, looked at himself and said “I know that in me nothing good dwells in me.” (Romans 7:18)

    So again, just what value do we bring to a relationship? None, at least none if that relationship isn’t founded on the Word and used as a platform to further explain the Word.

    Also, I don’t know how anyone gets around 1 Corinthians 1 (“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel…”), 1 Corinthians 2 (“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.), 1 Timothy 4 (” I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.)” Even the great commission, where we find our clearest mandate to produce disciples, gives us the method for doing so: “*teaching* them to obey all things I have commanded you.”

    Finally, I would ask this: has no one here enjoyed the ministry of someone they’ve never met? Jonathan Edwards, Mike Yaconelli, John Macarthur, Erwin McManus…whoever you gravitate to for instruction…do you know them personally? Do you hang out? Do you “get to know” them? I know the answer for most of us: no. Geography, time, priority all separate us from these people. Yet generations and multitudes have learned from men who we don’t know personally and even some who have been dead for centuries. How can that be accounted for if everything hinges on personal relationship? I know how I explain it: these types of people, who I’ve never met, helped me understand the Word better. It is the Word that is valuable and stable and effective. But if you think all valuable spiritual progress must come in the context of relationship how do you explain learning from someone you don’t know?

  • Kenny

    A personal testimony will defiantly tug at peoples emotions, but it is not just as powerful as diving into the Word. When you listen to a testimony, you end up leaving knowing more about that person than about Christ when you leave. God should be the center piece of worship, nothing else.

    That being said, this will be my last post. I just want to let Luke know that I am praying for him. Like it says in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the Word.”

    “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”
    -Charles H. Spurgeon

  • @ Jeff: Who doubted the durability of Scriptural instruction? I don’t see that anywhere. The point is combining Scriptural instruction WITH relationships.

    I’m not really sure why this is such a big deal. We’re all in the ministry in the first place to communicate God’s Word with teenagers. That’s why I invested 7 years into Bible college and seminary! If some of you want to remove the relationship part, that’s up to you, but there’s certainly nothing wrong or less honorable with sharing Christ through relationships.

    In fact, I’d be as bold to say that those of you who separate the relationship part from scriptural teaching are probably approaching ministry from your perspective rather than a teenager’s perspective. Maybe a relationship wouldn’t make a big difference to you, but it’s absolutely essential to teenagers. That’s not to deny that a sermon from someone they’ve never heard can’t leave an impact because it certainly can. It’s just that teens listen more intently when they know and feel that you love them and they actually care about what you have to say.

    @ Kenny: Testimonies aren’t about tugging on emotions — they’re about sharing how God has worked in our lives, giving Him praise and honor and glory for the work He’s doing to make us more like Him. Attributing worth to God in that manner is nothing less than pure worship! I agree it’s not a substitute for the Word — nothing is, can, or will be — but it saddens me to hear you belittle such a powerful form of worship.

  • Russ Bowlin

    I had no intention of posting again after Tim made a wonderful point, which i paraphrase (very poorly): consult God through prayer and meditation, and trust that your words are pleasing to God.
    However, I feel that my comments have been taken out of context and blown out of proportion. I simply state that building a relationship (which I defined as creating a situation of mutual understanding) is the jumping off point, and the first thing that I would do when starting at a new church or ministry. I am not a believer in purely relational ministry, because once I am no longer in that person’s life, I can’t offer help and be a support…instead, I think that it’s important to let youth know why I do what I do- because I’m desperately in need of forgiveness and saving…and hope that they come to understand something similar. I love “diving into the Word” with youth, but I realize that sometimes certain youth just aren’t ready…they still need milk instead of meat. So then the mission becomes trying to get them to a place where they’re ready for and wanting to discuss God and faith deeply.
    Thanks for some great posts, and for causing me to consider my theories, and for challenging me. Luke, the passage from 2 Timothy 4 is a great one, and important to remember as you enter a ministry. I pray that God would put upon your heart the things to say that the youth and parents at your new church need to hear.

  • i never really sensed any heated discussion..just discussion but…with text like this i never read into anything unless someone really starts biting…but i guess i’m odd there.

    @ Jeff you make an interesting point at the end…. how would you say those men have spurred you on in your ‘relationship’ with the King, His Kingdom, and those around you? i would venture to say its via something to do with the relationship they have with their King and Savior…who is your King and savior. its the mystery of Unity we so often don’t look at.

    relationships are found in and through everything…. i guess Dallas Willard’s book Divine Conspiracy has really challenged me to look at how our Master Teacher taught. it was by proclaiming the truth AND having relationship…with all around him….. anyways i feel i’m kicking the bludgeoned horse and this argument is more about definitional language ie. Word, relationship…. one in which we are all burning at two ends of candle but PRAISE THE LORD ITS THE SAME CANDLE

    @Russ
    man when you figure out how to co-labor with the father/son/spirit in the actual teaching and walking from Milk to Meat in students lives….write a book :-D just kidding we have plenty of theory. i think it again is the beauty of the Cross, Kingdom and Message… we get to be obiedent and through that sometimes see God bring a student or two to a place where they sink their teeth into some meet…. i think something to think about…and i ask this to everyone here…

    is it ok to have the praxy of doing a deep bible study when your students are ready for something (you can name what ever it may be) and just ‘hope’ and ‘pray’ that the spirit works and guides….and does its work….
    or do you as a minister and teacher help in the growth of the student and possibly go on a journy from milk to meat with the students….

    another way to ask it is…do you just give your kids meat even when their choking and have a militant attitude that the spirit will get them sorted… or do you water down the milk so they get it
    (please understand i know these are huge leaps from one another…but i like to deal in extremes…fill in the blank and answer if you will)

  • secondly at Kenny

    i would ask and pray you, as Tim some what did, challenge you to rethink your idea of testimony…. acts-3john is full of testimony….old testament testimony… and the testimony of the Gospels would not even be here for us today if had not been for the Testimony of Christ via the Apostles and Apostolic fathers for 400 years after the Cross… the Story and beauty of Our Savior is found in and through his work through our lives…which are rooted in his and his father…. we share in the Writing of the Gospels…just as much as Paul and Peter (sorry my mystic side coming out)

    i think that is partly why students don’t get ‘it’ sometimes is because we disconnect our lives from that of Body and Kingdom in which Christ is found in calling us to be apart and about his Story…his True and beautiful testimony

  • Russ Bowlin

    Brit- I’d love to know enough to write a book about that subject, but I feel like it’s a different process for everyone. Also, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone into a Sunday school lesson, Bible study, or prepared a message that I thought would mean a lot, make sense, and cause people to desire a closer relationship with God…only to go away feeling like I’ve pulled them into the deep end before they’re ready for it. Then I remember that I need keep in mind where they are in their understanding of God and spiritual walk with Christ, not where I wish they were. I think it’s important to meet people where they are, Paul understood this when he spoke to the church in Athens, saying that he could see they were a religious people, and he came to tell them about the God that they had designated an altar “to an unknown god”. I think there are times when we need to give people meat, and trust the Spirit to assist them in understanding, but I think that continually going over people’s heads is counter-productive for most people (I feel that this is a case of not making use of a gift from God: our ability to reason, reflect, and evaluate). As far as the watering down thing- I think that’s dangerous when it’s done in a community setting…this can drive people that need “meat” away by causing them not to feel challenged or changed. But if this “watering down” is done in a small group, or one on one (very rare in today’s ministry world), it can be beneficial to give special attention to someone that may not even be ready for “milk” yet…that’s what I would call a form of evangelism. I think that Jerry Schmoyer had some wonderful things to say about this in his post on “Time Out: Throwing a Good Pass” (go to the archives- February 18, 2008). Tim, if you could include a link to that post it would be awesome…I’m not smart enough to do so, or am not allowed to.

  • ok sorry for posting like three times now with out hearing much response i wanted to post this quote from Mike Y.

    When you take the pagan worship of busyness and add to it the biblical mandate to reach the world, you have a lethal combination. The church has baptized busyness and activity and basically formed a pact with the devil. This pact has succeeded in silencing those who criticize the trend toward hectic, overworked, burned-out, spiritually dry ministers who—in the “name of God”— neglect their families, their souls, and their physical well-being.

    If I can be so audacious as to “blaspheme” the Gospel of Growth, I respectfully suggest this modern rush to urgency is not only wrong, it’s arrogance gone mad.

    The moment we believe the Kingdom of God is dependent on you or me, we’ve either experienced a schizophrenic episode or we’ve misunderstood our roles as Christians.

    Yes, we are to be salt and light. Yes, we are to “go into all the world.” Yes, we are to “make disciples.” But last time I checked, it took Jesus three years of concentrated effort to make 12 disciples—and it took them the rest of their lives to understand what discipleship means. Last time I checked, Paul suggests we are in Christ, not working for Him. ~ Mike Yaconelli

  • Russ Bowlin

    great quote. i especially enjoy the reminder that Jesus had three years with 12 men and they still didn’t get it… helps to ease the frustrations I have when I’m waiting for something to happen with a youth or a group of youth

  • Tim: that was Russ, posting @ 1:02 PM. He wondered if scriptural teaching would stand up absent a relational context.

    Just to clarify: I’m not against relationship but, as I said earlier, if we had to choose a priority amongst the two it would clearly have to be proclamation over relationship.

    You wrote: “In fact, I’d be as bold to say that those of you who separate the relationship part from scriptural teaching are probably approaching ministry from your perspective rather than a teenager’s perspective.”

    What I don’t understand about that is why would anyone in ministry be concerned with their perspective or a teenagers? Why would we care what fallen people (yourself, myself, teenagers) have to say about ministry? Do we ask thieves how to manager a trust fund? It’s not like we have to figure ministry out in a vacuum. It’s not even like God has been ambiguous. “Preach the Word”, “Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word”, etc.

    You also wrote: “That’s not to deny that a sermon from someone they’ve never heard can’t leave an impact because it certainly can. It’s just that teens listen more intently when they know and feel that you love them and they actually care about what you have to say.”

    What is the value you see here? Is your relationship as speaker to the audience somehow sacramental? By that I mean do you think that your relationship somehow imparts grace or gives greater access to grace? I don’t think you do but when you say “listen” and “care” because they feel you love them I wonder what spiritual good that does anyone and what relevance it has to ministry.

    The Bible is clear: it’s the power of the Gospel that God has chosen to bring people to faith (“God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21, others I’ve already cited). So you know what is needed to produce and grow faith: proclamation. What does relationship contribute to the scenario. If you are addressing unbelieving students you are dealing with spiritually dead people who hate God (Romans 1:31). Regardless of how much they like you, they hate God. Would you say that your relationship in some way compensates for that deadness and hate toward God? Then, if you are addressing believers, they already have a compelling relationship that causes them to care and pay attention – their relationship to God through Christ. Regardless of your relationship to them, they’ll care about the message because of the Holy Spirit inside them. So again, what good do you think this relationship you have brings?

    Also, I would love to hear someone tell me why they think it would be a good thing for a kid to have a relationship with them, apart from that relationship being an opportunity to teach. What do you we bring to the table that is so great?

    Britt: Here’s the hole in what you posit – I have had many believers try to teach me something that I didn’t benefit from because it didn’t conform to the Word. So if it is a mutual unity in Christ which gives the relationship which gives growth why don’t we learn from all Christians the way we do from some? Again, it’s because some help us understand the truth of God better as opposed to our common unity in Christ.

  • @ Jeff: I’m not against relationship but, as I said earlier, if we had to choose a priority amongst the two it would clearly have to be proclamation over relationship.

    Why do you have to choose one over the other? God created us to be relational beings. Genesis 2 has that written all over it. We’re created to enjoy fellowship with each other and with God. They go hand-in-hand, not one over the other.

    What I don’t understand about that is why would anyone in ministry be concerned with their perspective or a teenagers?

    It’s cross cultural missions work! If God in His Word charges us to reach the world with the Good News about Jesus Christ, we must understand the changing perspectives, values and cultural context in which lost people live. To do that, anyone who works with teenagers needs to be familiar with what they think and how they perceive the world around them. Then we’ll be able to connect with them in language and categories they understand, and the unchanging, life-changing and corrective truths of God’s Word won’t fall on deaf ears. In effect, we’re cross-cultural missionaries. That’s exactly what Jesus did when He took the form of a human to be with us, right? That’s exactly what Paul did over and over again, too. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

    when you say “listen” and “care” because they feel you love them I wonder what spiritual good that does anyone and what relevance it has to ministry.

    Are you serious? Look, we all know that relationships don’t save people from eternal destiny in hell, but the Holy Spirit often chooses to work in our lives through other people. I don’t know why God set it up that way, but He did. If you think back on your own life, probably the biggest influences are people that the Lord used in your life to bring you to where you are today. Of course the Holy Spirit doesn’t NEED people and relationships, but that’s how God created us to function and apparently how He chooses to work in people’s lives.

    I would love to hear someone tell me why they think it would be a good thing for a kid to have a relationship with them, apart from that relationship being an opportunity to teach. What do you we bring to the table that is so great?

    Some kids don’t give a rip about what God’s Word has to say, but they do care about what you have to say if they know you love them and care for them. Would you listen to someone’s input in your life from someone whom you had no respect for? Sometimes it’s difficult to hear it even from people we greatly respect and admire! So again, relationship is the context for building trust and respect so they’ll actually listen to you and do what you say God’s Word tells them to do. But even if you take the Word of God out of the equation (not that any of us ever would — just for the sake of the argument), people influence people. I can be a positive influence in a teenager’s life when maybe all the other influences in their life are negative (school, dating relationships, abusive parents, peer pressure, their choice of entertainment, etc.).

  • i’m going to appologize right here and now…
    Jeff…i get the impression your theology on Christ and your interpretation of Christ as our Master Teacher, it seems through what you have written is VERY VERY VERY limited in understanding how HE taught and how Paul, Peter, James, John, taught…and how our faith bearing forefathers taught and lived in relation with ministry.

    “What I don’t understand about that is why would anyone in ministry be concerned with their perspective or a teenagers?”
    —Jesus grew in stature with God and Man (relationships) thus helping in the PERSPECTIVE of his FAther and those he came to save

    Why would we care what fallen people (yourself, myself, teenagers) have to say about ministry?
    — Who do you say i am peter….who do they say i am…. Jesus cared what people thought and HAD TO SAY ABOUT HIS MINISTRY

    Do we ask thieves how to manager a trust fund?
    —Hey Judas would you mind watching over all of our money….Jesus did

    It’s not like we have to figure ministry out in a vacuum. It’s not even like God has been ambiguous. “Preach the Word”, “Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word”, etc.
    —Hey Peter…yes you…the Bigot and temper tantrum boy…i want you carry this word…i’m going to send Paul later who has assisted in killing many of your brothers and sisters…but this guy will do some amazing things for my kingdom.

    Jeff i don’t understand how you view yourself in such a Shepard-aic (i like tagging that on) role but want to have nothing to do with knowing your sheep (which aren’t our sheep to begin with). you don’t get to know your sheep by just taking them to water and grass. i mean come on Jesus walked for 3 years with his disciples and we only hear about what he taught…man the horse play and banter that went on for those three years between those 12 jewish men and Christ being followed by thousands of people. his 30 years before that we get a simply ‘he grew in standing with man and God’ that to me meaning he grew in relationships where people were knowing him.
    when you look at how some people responded to him during his ministry ” Is this not the son of Joseph, son of a carpenter”

    we are not the teacher. Christ is the teacher…. we are not the grower…God is…..not the one who sends the rain to nourisher… the one who fixes or anything to that degree (all of which i think you would agree with)… so what do we do..we ‘tend’…relationally we ‘Be’ (personally bible study look up the hebrew word ‘Hiyah’ To Be)…what does that mean…. in completly imperfected CHRIST-LIKENESS (which is perfect) imperfectly building relationships with students

    i mean look at Mark 12.28-31,(loving others) Acts 4.36, 9.1-2… Barnabas is called the Son of Encouragement…thats pretty darn relational

    Galatians 6.2 bear one anothers burdens
    New American Standard Bible (©1995)
    Bear one another’s burdens, and THEREBY FULFILLING CHRIST TEACHING!!!

    WE UTTERLY CHEAT OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS WHEN WE USE THE EXCUSE THAT WE LOVE THEM OUR TEACHING. that is so calous and emptying of What God has created us for and to do

    Michael Wittmer says, “The one truth that everyone seems to agree on, from Moses through Jesus and on to Augustine and the Reformers, is that it’s virtually impossible to please God without loving our neighbors.” (Michael Wittmer, Heaven Is a Place on Earth)

    again no one has stated that relationship building should replace scripture…. but you are saying that there is no need for it as long as you teach scripture….and i just completely disagree with that. it is a both and…. as Tim said people need people…they NEED GOD…but if it wasn’t meant to be a relational world God would not have created us in the beginning to fellowship and be in relationship with Him

    i again apologize for the beginning language of the post…as i have edited it several times to not completely offend (even though in christ’s teaching offense was sometimes called for in helping a brother or sister…or flat out wrong teaching to become correct)

  • Tim: You asked “Why do you have to choose one over the other? God created us to be relational beings. Genesis 2 has that written all over it. We’re created to enjoy fellowship with each other and with God. They go hand-in-hand, not one over the other.”

    The answer is that, as I mentioned in my first post, that relationship vs. proclamation dichotomy is what this thread developed in to. It was suggested that relationship be developed at the expense of instruction. Kenny rightly pointed out that *if* we’re going to choose one over the other, instruction is the more beneficial option.

    You wrote: “It’s cross cultural missions work! If God in His Word charges us to reach the world with the Good News about Jesus Christ, we must understand the changing perspectives, values and cultural context in which lost people live. To do that, anyone who works with teenagers needs to be familiar with what they think and how they perceive the world around them. Then we’ll be able to connect with them in language and categories they understand, and the unchanging, life-changing and corrective truths of God’s Word won’t fall on deaf ears.”

    I appreciate the answer but I’ve apparently been unclear in what I was looking for. I asked why we should care what sinners’ (you, myself, teenagers) perspective hold, what we or they think we or they need when God has been so clear as to how He operates. I cited a slew of scriptures which make it abundantly clear that God births and grows faith through the preaching of the Word. So why do we have to be so caught up in all these [seemingly] good ideas about cross-cultural ministry when God has said He saves through preaching? Paul specifically said he abandoned human wisdom in declaring the gospel. Why should we be different?

    You also wrote: “Are you serious? Look, we all know that relationships don’t save people from eternal destiny in hell, but the Holy Spirit often chooses to work in our lives through other people. I don’t know why God set it up that way, but He did. If you think back on your own life, probably the biggest influences are people that the Lord used in your life to bring you to where you are today. Of course the Holy Spirit doesn’t NEED people and relationships, but that’s how God created us to function and apparently how He chooses to work in people’s lives.”

    I think this is where we disagree. I think (as I’ve tried to cite in previous posts) the Bible is quite clear as to how faith is birthed and developed. If you want to talk personally, at best I’m 50/50 with my spiritual development between those who invested in me being (a) either people I know or (b) people I didn’t. Actually, it’s probably more on the side of people I didn’t know. So experience, as always, isn’t the way we answer the question. That’s subjective and fallible. We look to the objective Word for the truth of the matter and it comes down on the side of the importance of preaching truth.

    I’m still not clear on what role you think relationships play in spiritual birth or growth. Do you think these relationships can help someone who hates God not detest Him so badly? Or do you think by building relationships we “chip in” on what God is doing to the sinner through His Word? You say “that is apparently how the Holy Spirit works” but I don’t see anything like that when the Bible talks about how people come to and grow in faith.

    You wrote: “Some kids don’t give a rip about what God’s Word has to say, but they do care about what you have to say if they know you love them and care for them. Would you listen to someone’s input in your life from someone whom you had no respect for? Sometimes it’s difficult to hear it even from people we greatly respect and admire! So again, relationship is the context for building trust and respect so they’ll actually listen to you and do what you say God’s Word tells them to do. ”

    So by developing care for us do we help them care about God? I’m just trying to figure out what your understanding is here. I’m thinking (and could be incorrect) that it’s something along the lines of “If they like us then they’ll like Jesus”. Is that correct? If not, help me out.

    As for me, yes, I would listen to someone I don’t respect. 2 Samuel 16:5-10 tells the story -in case you or someone who reads this doesn’t know it- of David, after having been run out of town by Absalom, having rocks thrown at him by a guy named Shimei (who was a fan of Saul and mistakenly thought David had been shady in his dealings with Saul). One of David’s boys asks if he can just go kill Shimei and David’s response is, if I might summarize, “No, it could be that the Lord has told him to curse me. If so, I need it. If the Lord hasn’t maybe he’ll revisit Shimei’s cursing of me on his own head.” So I think there is strong scriptural precedent from learning from those you don’t respect. But here’s the key: only insofar as what they say conforms to Biblical revelation. That’s the thing. Relationships might have value but it is only valuable insofar as it conforms to the Word. So it doesn’t matter if love someone or hate them, the quality of the message isn’t in the relationship but rather in the message’s fidelity to the Word.

    When you write “So again, relationship is the context for building trust and respect so they’ll actually listen to you and do what you say God’s Word tells them to do.” I can’t help but disagree, based on scriptural revelation.

    Ministry isn’t an attempt to get kids to “do what…God’s Word tells them to do.” According to Scripture, they don’t have the ability to do what the Word tells them, right? So it doesn’t matter what relationship I have to them, I can’t help them do something God says they have no ability to do.

    So if they don’t have the ability (as Scripture teaches) and we can’t make them Godly (no matter how intimate our relationships) what do we do? We go back to what Paul said – preach the Word. Let God demonstrate His power in bringing the dead to life. Then relationship has some good to offer – insofar as it gives us a platform to explain the Word more.

  • this is totally unrelated….Tim i’m sorry to complain but broha there is a banner for a dating site…. come on man…a christina agularia look alike laying flat… i know didn’t make it and maybe don’t choose the sponsors…i just find it kinda offensive…sorry i’m trying to become more prude with my eyes and thoughts on christian marketing…

    anyways Jeff. i would agree with most of what you had to say the end as far as our role…albeit not really having one in the salvation process…. but as for Faith..i think that hebrews 11 talks about the sharing and learning from others faith in God. which would lead me to go back with a relational form of ministry….

    i think what would help is if we could define our intent for using the word relationship… cause i probably have a different view from most on here as well.

  • Brit: a lot of what you wrote I don’t understand so when I reply I might not have understood you entirely well but I’m going to try to respond as best I can.

    “i’m going to appologize right here and now…
    Jeff…i get the impression your theology on Christ and your interpretation of Christ as our Master Teacher, it seems through what you have written is VERY VERY VERY limited in understanding how HE taught and how Paul, Peter, James, John, taught…and how our faith bearing forefathers taught and lived in relation with ministry.”

    I wouldn’t argue that it’s limited. I would say it is indeed limited, limited to what scripture says about Ministry.

    You wrote: “—Jesus grew in stature with God and Man (relationships) thus helping in the PERSPECTIVE of his FAther and those he came to save”

    I don’t understand what you are trying to communicate there at all. It seems on my end that maybe you got in a hurry writing and left some of the words out you meant to write maybe.

    In terms of perspective though, no human perspective matters when God has addressed the subject (see my previous posts for citation). I don’t dictate or determine what is needful for ministry. I, like you and the people in our churches, are fallen and suffer from the noetic effects of the fall. We can’t get it right. So God has to reveal the methodology He uses and accepts. He has, it’s preaching the Word first and foremost.

    You wrote “Who do you say i am peter….who do they say i am…. Jesus cared what people thought and HAD TO SAY ABOUT HIS MINISTRY”

    Really? You think that interchange indicates that He cared what people thought about Him as opposed to telling us that He wanted to make sure the disciples understood who He had revealed Himself to be?

    If Jesus cared so much about what people thought about how He did things then how does one explain John 6 where, at the height of His numerical popularity, He purposefully runs the crowd off by hitting them with “eat my skin and drink my blood”? It’s in that chapter He says “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”. It’s pretty clear that Christ didn’t care about what people thought about what He had to say, only that they respond to it as He desired. And He also was clear that they couldn’t respond properly unless His Father intervened.

    You wrote: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”. I’m not really seeing your intent here either. I made use of a metaphor but I was alluding to Judas’ office so perhaps the confusion was generated on my end.

    You wrote “—Hey Peter…yes you…the Bigot and temper tantrum boy…i want you carry this word…i’m going to send Paul later who has assisted in killing many of your brothers and sisters…but this guy will do some amazing things for my kingdom.”

    Brit man, you are making my point for me here. You are absolutely right about Peter and Paul. They sucked (as do we) but they were useful to the Kingdom. Why? Not because they were valuable (and thus not because they contributed anything to a relationship with them) but because they “carried the Word.” The power is in the Word, not the person.

    You wrote “i don’t understand how you view yourself in such a Shepard-aic (i like tagging that on) role but want to have nothing to do with knowing your sheep (which aren’t our sheep to begin with). you don’t get to know your sheep by just taking them to water and grass. i mean come on Jesus walked for 3 years with his disciples and we only hear about what he taught…man the horse play and banter that went on for those three years between those 12 jewish men and Christ being followed by thousands of people. his 30 years before that we get a simply ‘he grew in standing with man and God’ that to me meaning he grew in relationships where people were knowing him.”

    Thats called constructing a straw man (where you address me). I never once said anything about not getting to know the people I’m called to serve. I would be confident if you contacted the youth group I last served the students would immediately tell you I loved them and went out of my way to develop a loving relationship with them. I can get you in contact with them because I still enjoy friendship with most of them to this day. You would receive similar sentiments from the people of the church I pastor today. I fail in many ways but building relationships, by and large, isn’t one of my weak points. So don’t speak about what you don’t know from personal experience nor what flies in the face of what I’ve constantly written here (“Relationships are important but only insofar as they give platform for explaining the Word”).

    As for the speculation about what Jesus did or didn’t do in the years with the disciples that isn’t recorded I simply don’t care to discuss that. The Word is silent, I’ll have to understand the silence is best and not speculate.

    As far as Jesus developing in “relationships where people were knowing him” I’m still in a bit of a fog as to what I’m supposed to draw from that. If I can take a stab at it, fine. Jesus had relationships with people. That neither improves nor disproves what I’ve been arguing for here. Jesus would be the one person in human history who it is beneficial to have a relationship with. And it is still true today. He has chosen to begin that relationship with people through the preaching of the Word and then continues it through His Spirit’s application of the Word to us. You, I, and the “best” ministers in the world aren’t Christ. We don’t have anything to bring to a relationship unless it is “Look to Christ in His Word”.

    You wrote: “Barnabas is called the Son of Encouragement…thats pretty darn relational”. I don’t disagree. I just fail to see how that elevates relationship above proclamation.

    You wrote: “WE UTTERLY CHEAT OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS WHEN WE USE THE EXCUSE THAT WE LOVE THEM OUR TEACHING. that is so calous and emptying of What God has created us for and to do”

    Sorry man, I just can’t make heads or tails of that.

    I would affirm the Whittner quote in spirit. I think perhaps it’s a bit too limited on what that group would agree on but I embrace the idea that God places a high priority on loving our neighbors. I again fail to see how this is an assault of what I’m been trying to get across, however.

    You wrote: “again no one has stated that relationship building should replace scripture…. but you are saying that there is no need for it as long as you teach scripture….and i just completely disagree with that. it is a both and”

    That isn’t true on a couple levels.

    The first response, I believe, was that this gentleman, at his new position shouldn’t do a Bible study but spend the time given to building relationships then later work into teaching. That is precisely “relationship building replac[ing] scripture.”

    And I’ve never once said there is no need for relationship building, at least in an ultimate sense. In fact, I’ve repeatedly affirmed it’s value. I’ve simply pointed out that the Bible requires preference be given to preaching. God’s Word always creates His people, not His people creating His people.

  • Oh, and Brit, no need to apologize. I didn’t think you were being hateful or uncivil. I appreciate the concern but I’m good man. Hope it’s same on your end; my apologies if it isn’t. Let me know if not and I’ll try to sort it out with you.

  • CP

    Kenny,

    I wanted to comment on what you said – that a senior pastor would never take a Sunday off to get to know his congregation. ACTUALLY, Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC did that…for several weeks. If was stated up front before he took the job…and you know what…I admire that. He sat in amongst the congregation and learned his people and what they were dealing with and how they responded. I have to be honest and say that this is a great approach.

    When I was interviewed…they asked what my first few months would be like. I simply answered, observing and background. Meaning, taking everything in, learning, and preparing to love my kids and the church and the area.

    So, I would have to say that you might not do it that way…but a SENIOR PASTOR actually has…and it worked….WELL!

  • Hmmm…that’s interesting. When Dever (or you) were doing this was there no instruction going on? Just everyone setting around talking to the new Pastor during the corporate worship times?

  • no it was dead on….my problem in typing is that…
    A) i’m to another thought when i’m midway in sentence
    b) i leave a lot of things open for one to think on it and find a conclusion of their own for growth… thus the Barnabas one…. to be an encourager would mean to be involved heavily in others lives…. which again i think is where this ‘becoming mute’ (at least for you and i as see we agree in most things but burning from two ends of the same candle) argument is how we define our relationship with and for students and how we carry the Word.

    for me…my life is to breath the Word.. i love Ezekiel 31 for such an illustration of breath of God and Genesis 1 having God breath into our nostrils. i see, how the father has revealed him self through my life; in his word; through revelation and friendships…. that everything in the kingdom is of a relationship…whether one of actually knowing someone…like Jeff i don’t know you personally but would say we have a relationship that is sealed and created by the stripes of our King and traces from Luther reading the bible…to augustine writing his confession, to Athenatious, Barnabas, Peter, Paul, Jonathan, Saul, Moses, to Adam… all connected through the everlasting never beginning never ending Love and Blood of Christ our King….there is our relationship

    because i am in him…only because he made it possible…he in me is the Word in me…thus my actions, words, thoughts (i wish all these more so realy were reflected in my life) reflect Christ in all i do. if i’m having a coffee with a parent or a kid… i love only because i have been loved (1John 3) everything i do..or as it should should reflect (how ever imperfectly) the Word… the Word to me (and sorry if i’m sound very heretical i don’t mean to…just very mystic in the power of the Cross and Kingdom of God) is not JUST the bible/scriptures….the Word/Logos. was in reference to Jesus…anyways i need to stop with this thought as i’m getting confused myself :-)

    Jeff, brother i have no need to contact your other ministries. i can’t judge anothers servant (even though i along with so many others do…and so often on this very thing of Praxy) i praise the lord for getting to work ‘in relation’ :-) with you in ministering in Gods Kingdom…that is something beautiful and amazing that only the Word could do. we may not think the same way…but in having the same Word and same Spirit i do believe we want the same thing…and thats Gods Kingdom and every little ounce of what that means in this world. would love to keep in contact/debate as iron sharpens iron. you have some great ideas and thoughts as you approach it from a different place than myself.

    i think the problem is that we are trying to seperate preaching/teaching from relationship (loving one another)… the Word is the Word with out preaching/ teaching and with out relationship (even though these things are Word because the Word is the Word) by that i mean that they don’t work with out Him… my question is why do we need to separate them?

    Kenny
    where you just sitting back with a note pad tacking notes or where you living and breathing the Word in what you were doing?!?!

    ok i’m putting my devils advicate hat up for the day…or until someone else posts :-D

  • CP

    Jeff,
    You would find there were several other pastors that would fill in to teach during this time. So there was instruction going on.

    Dever would get to know the congregation while someone else would teach. This was only temporary.

  • Gotcha. That makes much for sense to me. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Lol…how about, as a courtesy to me, the reader takes “for” out of my previous reply and insert “more.” I’m an idiot.

  • Pingback: Links for Youth Workers « Global Youth Ministry Network()

  • This website does not show up properly on my iphone4 – you might want to try and repair that

New eBookGo
Focused Youth Ministry ebook

85% off!

Focused Youth Ministry

This practical "how to" ebook will walk you through a 30-step process to discovering God's vision for your unique ministry context. The process also shows you how to implement that vision and put metrics in place to evaluate what is moving the vision forward and what isn't.

Price: $12.95 Limited time: $1.99

footer