Wednesday, January 13, 2010

01.13.10 - what are we working towards?

photo by me // feb 2008 // kailua kona hawaii

This post stems out of my own frustration, of trying to figure out what the real goal is of our youth ministry. What is it that I want the students in our ministry to walk away with? What do we want their lives to really look like? I think this question has to be asked before we start trying to do anything. Identifying the goal to see what we're working for.

For those of you involved with any ministry, can you sum up what you're trying to do in five sentences or less? What are your ultimate end goals?

If our goal is vague, then what are we really working towards? "Living a Godly life" isn't specific enough, what does that look like?

As we are trying to figure out what to do with our youth groups, with our congregations, small groups, with the retreat we're planning, with our very own lives do we ever stop to ask "what's the point?"

I challenge you to think this over, and post your five sentences or less here in the comment section. Then ask the question, if these are the goals, is what we're doing moving us in that direction? How can what we're doing be tweaked to be more effective to help us reach our ultimate goals?

JIM baker


  1. Phil. 3:10 ~ I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection...

    I don't know man... the longer I'm in ministry the more I've come to realize that it ALL starts ^ here!

  2. I want to lead my youth to Jesus! Not to me, any of my leaders or our programs. Youth that get connected to Jesus are forever changed and help Jesus change others.

  3. My desire is to lead well by loving God and loving people not for any motive that's connected to my job, but because it's rooted out of a passion for the Glory of God and seeing the purpose of me being created, fulfilled. That's why i live, and how i minister should be a reflection of that, so that others will catch that contagious joy that nothing in this world compares to serving King Jesus.'s difficult to chart, measure that success...

  4. As a teacher, I get caught up in the same frustration at times- so I feel ya, bro. But don't forget that even though you're looking at a group of people, God's plan for each one of those students is individual- instead of what do "we want" them to take away- (which is easier) you've gotta ask yourself, "how can i be more open to giving these kids what they need from Jesus?" what they'll take away will reflect their individual needs- they won't all need the same thing. from my middle school/high school youth group, i took away a sense of belonging in the body of christ, a knowledge that jesus saved me, and a heart to encourage others. i know that there were others who took away something completely different... but we were lucky to have some really awesome youth leaders who looked to Jesus for guidance. like you!

  5. vague vague vague... fellow youth pastors, how come the best answer i see so far is from some one thats not even in full time ministry?

    lets keep this conversation rolling

    @ J - great sunday school answer, thank you. you're gonna have to expound... is that the goal of your ministry? that your kids would know Christ and the power of his resurrection? What does that look like? And are your kids knowing those things?

    @ Andy - connected to Jesus... how? Do they stay connected after high school and are out of your program?

    @ Corey - are you seeing kids in your ministry live a life rooted in passion for the glory of God? Do you see that contagious joy in your kids?

    @ Colleen - i'm blown away by your answer... thanks for bringing me back to the fact that it is indeed an individual thing... if we are open to giving each kid what they need from Jesus it keeps us in constant relationship with Him, going back and asking, relying on Him to show us what we need instead of doing things on our own strength. God's convicted me recently that ministry really is about relationship, but it seems like in corporate church its real easy to get lost in looking at the group instead of the individual. Our Pastor has been reminding us that as we grow bigger we have to think smaller.

  6. Youth ministry, in my eyes, is ultimately about helping kids develop their relationship with Christ. It's about teaching and showing them the Way, the Truth, and the Life - and making the search for that their priority - encouraging them to turn their backs on all the crap the world tries to get them to worship. Youth ministers help lay a foundation for their kids that will help sustain their relationship with Christ after they've left home and started their own lives. Though this all seems quite general and possibly too vague when planning on a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule what to do with your kids, keep this in mind - you need to equip these kids with tools that they can use in the future to grow closer to Christ. When you find yourself getting frustrated, remember that when seeds are sown, it ALWAYS takes time for the plants to grow.

  7. Rachel - not sure who you are as I know a few rachels... but yeah, lately God's been showing me too that its a process... and I'm impatient.

    Helping them lay a foundation for their relationship with Christ... i like that picture

  8. know....the one working in youth ministry....i just saw you literally 4 days ago....:)

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  10. Im not a youth pastor or teacher, just an clinical social worker, serving as an volunteer for the past 16 mos at a multi-church youth group here in Warren,PA. You pose an intersting question. Personally, from a middle-aged perspective, I see the goal to be twofold:(1) Responding to an individual youth's needs-just by showing up and listening and (2) Modeling or showing Christ's love -which obviously is the motivation behind (1). I guess I think it's all about relationship-how youth pastors, adult volunteers,and parents reflect,reveal and pour out our relationship with Jesus in our relationships with teens. I also think being involved in some capacity in youth ministry presents an amazing vehicle for showing teenagers what is Christ's unconditional love/grace-for that alone can lead youth to Christ

  11. It wasn't meant to be a S.S. answer because I've found that after 8 years of Youth Ministry I've realized that we do a great job of overcomplicating things and feeling the need to write/read thousands of books about Youth Ministry because of it. Before I expound.. you said 5 sentences max! I kept it short on purpose... but honestly, Colleen is really close to where my heart is. Aaron and I had a good convo about this shortly after you posted. It's a better "real life" conversation for the 3 of us. Threads overwhelm me ;-)

  12. You ask a tough question Jim and one that I think about everyday. What am I trying to do to impact the lives of the students I work with? How am I showing them the love and power of Jesus? I can get students to pass tests and do work, but is that really building a desire in them to be learners? I think that everyday it should be our job to make people see the real Jesus in the way that we live and our goal should be to help develop others who will do the same thing. I know that it sounds kind of vague and clique, but I heard someone say once that if someone's life was a little better because of what you did in it, then we have had some success. I think that your goal with youth ministry should be to love the kids as Jesus loves them. Too many of them never experience that kind of love. Sometimes it might seem like you are being abused and taken for granted, but they will never forget that you cared and loved them. I have been working with young people for almost 20 years and I see people today who I know would not be the same if God had not moved in their lives. I count it a true privilege to have been someone that Jesus worked through to help them. So what is the goal? LOVE THEM AS JESUS LOVES THEM AND BUILD IN THEM THE ABILITY TO LOVE OTHERS LIKE THAT.
    Mike Rohlin

  13. My SS answer is similar to others & is as follows:

    Get students to engage/connect/encounter/(insert hip church word here having to do with the previous) with Christ. Doing this by providing space & time for it to happen (worship, service, bible). At the same time knowing they are going to screw the pooch many a time (like me).

    looking forward to your it up Jimmy.

  14. I talked a bit about this last night over dinner with two of our adult volunteers... they brought up an interesting point that it seems as though everything else has a way testing proficiency or adeptness... its hard because in ministry while we are teaching facts, its so much more than that. what facts however are we trying to teach and are they being learned.

    @ robert - i like your two thoughts, responding to youths needs by simply being PRESENT, an adult that they can trust. And secondly modeling Christ's love. It disheartens me though that this becomes the professional job of one youth pastor, when its the call of every parent, and every adult in the church. Maybe Dr. Dobson has it right when he's focusing on the family.

    @ J - lets get together soon man... wasn't trying to attack you with the whole S.S answer... I just didn't want vague answers, I'm interested to have this conversation with you.

    @ Mike - side note, I've heard from quite a few parents, that kids went home who usually don't talk about youth and were telling their parents about what they were learning! Thanks so much for coming and speaking.

    oh man... yeah, how do we get them to want to be learners, how do we get them hungry for Jesus?

    Love them as Jesus loves them... thats good, it causes me to press hard into God and ask Him his thoughts of these kids, to look past their surface and tap into what God has put inside of them and draw it out. It's hard however to do that in 2 hours a week (if they show up every week) I see them, and seems overwhelming to do for all the kids in our group. But I guess God delights in using us for the impossible huh?

    @ Jay - connecting with Christ by providing the space and time to do this... i like that. but how do we get them to take ownership of it once we're not the ones providing the space and time anymore?

    and its dang good insight to realize how much we screwed up in middle and high school and yet here we are by the grace of God representing Him to kids who aren't far off from our situations. But my question to follow that up is... where do we draw the standard? Because it'd be easy to lower the "standard" whatever that is... and just say oh they are high schoolers... a bunch of the warren youth pastors met last week and I asked that question and I think it was Aaron that mentioned that Jesus' sermon on the mount raised the bar real real real high on everything and that none of it can be done without Him. So i guess theres the answer, we keep the standard at where Jesus put it and let them know that they can't do it without Him.

    still thinking about my 5 sentences or less...

  15. Wow, these are great answers to a hard question. Like my brother, I have been working with teenagers a long time. I jokingly say that I have either been a teenager or ministered to them since 1983. :-)

    I can sincerely say that at the core of everything I have done in youth ministry has been to help them to understand that they are loved, they are wanted (acceptance) and they are needed (valuable).

    I feel those are the overriding needs that every young person is trying to have met and only Jesus provides genuine answers. So, my job in loving teenagers is to do everything I can, with every tool at my disposal, in all the power of the Holy Spirit to have them understand how Jesus sees them.

    Sometimes it's teaching the Bible, praying and other typical "ministry stuff." But much of the time it's smiles, hugs, watching their soccer games or a host of other seemingly insignificant things.
    And, hey, if you don't count my opening paragraph, I only used 5 sentences. :-)

  16. Rick, thanks a ton for your input, what I think I'm narrowing down is that "identity creates destiny" haha one of my favorite quotes, and its our job to be showing them what God thinks of them.

    I just want to maximize the efficiency of this message.

    I really need to give thought to my 5 sentences... and I'll post it as a new blog.

  17. Another thought for you Jim. Teens want to do something to change the world. I have seen more active movements to bring real change from young people than from anyone. Talk to me about the Summer Institute I teach on human rights and genocide. Students want to change people's live for the better and will be real activist for it. Christians should be the leaders in this activity.

  18. I would want every one to encounter GOD, experiencing the PRESENCE/LOVE of Jesus, POWER of Holy Spirit and Loving FEAR of God so they would never be satisfied with a life without Him. By exposing each to healing, deliverance, signs and wonders (Matt 11:4,5). Taking them where ever God's manifest presence is. Teach by example how to experience this for themselves. Give each the opportunity to impart this to others. Never giving up until each had this experience for themselves.

  19. i asked Dan Mohler while taking him back to youngsville what he thought about youth and all that... he said just encourage them to get alone with Jesus when no one else is looking and thats where intimacy is built... Dan's teaching this weekend is reawakening and refocusing me a lot its really good

    @ mike - absolutely, i'd love to hear about your summer institute, and i completely agree that teens want to be involved in changing the world, they are so excited to serve at the gateway center, i love it. And yes... Christians should be at the forefront of EVERYTHING... especially human rights

    @ Lois - i love when you sneak attack me at church and launch into something about my blog, it always takes me a second to register that we're talking in real life about something thats online :)

    EXPERIENCING God is CRUCIAL... in ywam we label what you're talking about this "unsatisfaction with life without Him" as "ruined for the ordinary"

  20. mmmmmm i really like what Dan said :-)

  21. Why don't you ask God what he wants for your youth ministry. It's not about what you want.

  22. I believe Jim has already done so-that is obvious by his heart for Jesus and ministry-and besides, as the Bible says, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ"

  23. Well... I'm not a youth pastor, I'm just a mom who's lived with 5 teenagers and one rapidly growing tween. I've loved reading these responses... they've made me think a lot.
    I just walked into Nathan's room and happened to see the PCB elbow I gave him years ago sitting on top of his dresser. Remember it, Jim? It has written on the side of it, "LIONWEIGHT... NATE" in big, black letters. The purpose of it back then was to remind you guys that your band, your music, was a conduit through which God could flow. You were all young and passionate... you've grown up in many ways since then but I still love your passion.
    As I sit here contemplating this hunk of pipe, I'm realizing how gunked-up my own conduit has become. All the things that I've considered to be so important for my kids, like correct teaching, discipline, foundational principles for living... none of it matters much if I speak the name of Jesus with my mouth but don't love them with His heart. If they don't feel loved and valued for who they are, words fall on deaf ears. And it's virtually impossible to love them with His heart if I'm not letting Him fill me up first. There's power in the love of Jesus that I can't work up or make up in my own humanity.
    I think too often I look at my kids in some lump sum, kind of like a project, instead of prayerfully considering them as individuals with very different personalities, strengths, and needs. I spend too much time talking to them and not enough time talking with God about them. If my kids and their friends are typical, then our youth groups are filled with lonely, confused teenagers who desperately need to feel valued. Everybody has an agenda for their lives when what they really want is relationship that's real. Love that is genuine and has purpose. They've heard all the hype, now they're looking for what can really be trusted. If we as parents and adults can be conduits for love that is beyond ourselves, always pointing the way to Jesus...and if we can help them to become conduits themselves without constantly analyzing and judging... then I believe the rest will fall into place. We strive way too much to achieve what only God can control. Goals are good and certainly necessary, but let's not get the cart before the horse. And let's not presume that God works on our timetable.
    I guess I've rambled enough for one sitting... I need to go practice what I preach =)

  24. Donna,

    Parents are probably who I should be talking to get solid recon about teens. It has been fun seeing everyones responses.

    I DO remember the PVC elbow you gave us, to "stay connected" is what you told us when we were pursuing after the rock and roll. Its funny to me that I was the one that really pushed for that band and now I'm the only one not doing anything with music. Weird how that works. Good times though nonetheless... I talked with Kathy Larson today on facebook chat today too... Dave is on tour in LA right now. All side notes sorry

    "IF they don't feel loved and valued for who they are, words fall on deaf ears." Thats GOOD.

    And so is... "its virtually impossible to love them with His heart if I'm not letting Him fill me up first."

    and "I spend too much time talking to them and not enough talking with God about them."

    thanks for sharing your thoughts they make me think, and challenge and bless me.


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