What I’m processing about stage-of-life ministry and ecclesiology [video]

A lot has happened in my family in the past two years! Most of you know I lost my job about two years ago and was searching for a youth ministry position while working for myself as a full-time blogger here at Life In Student Ministry, but a couple months ago when I took a position at Epipheo Studios that seemed like a surprising left turn to most people, including us!

Honestly, after talking with many churches, search committees, pastors, and mentors close to me, it felt like most churches were looking to hire an administrator more than a pastor. Most churches also seemed to be looking for someone to take the youth ministry off the hands of the church and run it for them instead of someone who would partner with them and parents. Of course, few churches actually said it that way, but ultimately that’s what it felt like it came down to for me, and I’m not on board with either approach.

Along with all this, I’ve been thinking, praying, and revisiting my ecclesiology again in light of these things, specifically in the context of youth ministry and how we can best partner with families. Our whole identity in ministry being wrapped up in the stage-of-life ministry strategy is something I think needs to be visited in a way that brings light to some of the assumptions we make, not in a critical way, but in a way that helps us serve the bride of Christ in the most God-honoring and effective way possible.

In the video below, I summarize some personal thoughts of where we’ve come from over the past couple years to bring us to where we are today in Cincinnati, Ohio, at Epipheo Studios. I also share a bit about where I think we’re going in the future. I feel like I’m risking some vulnerability in sharing some of this with you all since it has the potential to bring some criticism (as it already has), but I hope that your feedback will be helpful in shaping me. Thank you, everyone, for your investment into me through posts like this!

Posted on May 30, 2012

  • wrswaim

    I also enjoy being stretched by your thoughts and challenges like few others. I think you should go way out on the limb (LOL, of course someone else says for YOu to do that but not them, LOL)………….and make a part 2 or Part 3 vlog of this and express some of the more concrete ideas you have in that pointy little head of yours (LOL). Sincerely though, if we had more details as to more specifics you are speaking of then we might be able to have a more full-bodied response and think it through with you! Give it a shot. We promise to be nice. ;-)

    • Thanks! :) I’ll definitely be sharing more. I just gotta figure out how to best articulate everything because if I don’t start at the beginning with some foundational stuff it’ll just be confusing and unhelpful for everyone. I’ve been talking with someone here at Epipheo who articulates all this very well, though. We’re talking about shooting a video series together that walks through all this and more. Don’t have an ETA on that, though.

  • Chad

    Not really interested in hearing that “most churches [are] looking to hire an administrator more than a pastor.” I’m sorry if you were hurt by a church, but please don’t cast that bad image on all other churches. No church will ever be perfect, but I believe that God is still working in most churches and that the leadership hears from God. If you have some specific things that churches could work on to make it better, great, I love to learn. General comments like these only seem to do more harm than good, though.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Chad. I have to respectfully disagree, though. This was certainly true of the last church I came from, but also of every church I served at before then and most of the churches I talked to during the two years of interviewing (which was many). There are definitely churches where this is not true, but out of the larger-than-normal sampling I’ve had contact with, this seems to be true. It’s not meant to be critical, just an honest observation that hopefully will cause some churches to reflect. I do agree with you, though, that God is still working and that the leadership in a lot of churches pursue God over things like this.

  • Josh Robertson

    Hey Tim! I think you are asking some great questions. It becomes so easy to continue to do ministry a certain way simply because it is the way it has been done in the past. Recently in spending time with a few of my good friends (who also happen to be youth pastors in the same community that I am in) I asked the question why do you do ministry the way you do? All three of us answered by saying that we do it the way youth ministry was done when we were students. Of course we have all modified certain things, and made some changes but essentially the philosophy of ministry that we follow was taken from our experiences as youth growing up. It is not that the specific philosophy we are following is necessarily bad, it is that we have taken it and implemented it and in the day to day schedule of ministry rarely if ever have time to ask important questions about why we do ministry the way we do and if it is producing disciples that follow Jesus for the rest of their lives. I am carving much time over the next couple of months for reading, asking questions, entering into dialogue with others, and seeking God in prayer. Looking forward to seeing how you continue to process these really important questions. Thanks Tim!

    • Awesome, Josh! Glad to hear it! I think asking the question, “Why do we do what we do the way that we do it?” is a good question, but sometimes it stops on it’s superficial level: how we function. I’ve learned in my personal life that how I function is determined by my identity, how I view myself, what I feel secure in, what makes me feel insecure, etc. And I think the same is true for why churches and organizations function the way they do. It comes down to identity. So what I’m trying to wrestle with is, “What is the church’s identity?” I’m not trying to redefine it — I’m simply trying to see the church how Christ sees it and letting it’s methods and function flow from that as the scripture and Holy Spirit direct. (Hopefully that makes sense.)

      • Josh Robertson

        Yeah, that makes sense! You phrased that well in your video when you asked what would be left our churches is we took out all age-segregated learning. For my church the answer would be nothing (oh, wait the potlucks would still be a go!) That is an important clarification you made that we need to look at the identity of the church and not simply how we function as a church.

  • Tim Severson

    Thanks for sharing. I’m also thinking about how church is “done” these days and what is and is not working. I’m a youth pastor and music minister at a small church in north Florida but mostly called to music so I sometimes struggle in youth ministry. I would like to hear more from you as you discover more about the things you talked about.

  • Peter

    I’ve also been wrestling with some similar ecclesial matters. I believe the age and affinity group divisions were modeled after our public school system. Understanding of our baptismal identity, at the very least, challenges us to think hard how we might discern some sense of connectional nature of the church. Generally, I have been think a lot about tradition (traditum) and traditioning (traditio) – I think that part of what loses generational connection may have to do with not critically moving through generations enough. Christian tradition must continue through generations, but requires relevance. Discerning the essence of faith in tradition, while making it our own language is what I wrestle with… Of course, I’m probably not saying anything new, but I’ve been trying to find ways to apply this on practical level. I’ve said enough, but if you want I’d be happy to share some examples.

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