Can a Youth Ministry Be Missional When We …

… irregularly participate in local service projects, not be Jesus out in the world and neglect our spiritual formation. Can we be missional and donate inconsistently to clean water projects and anti-trafficking campaigns? Are we missional because we want to do these things, talk about them frequently, and hope that we one day will be more consistent? These are questions I regularly ask myself but not because I’m mad/disappointed at our students/church/myself but with the hopes of being faithful with the calling and opportunities the Lord has placed before us.

Here’s our context. We are an evangelical, suburban church 20 miles outside of NYC. We haven’t gone bowling in years, never have seen a Mercy Me concert, and if you ask them who Josh McDowell is, they’ll likely tell you that he was a inconsistent attender who graduated the other year. There’s so much I love about our ministry: We have committed volunteer leaders (some have been serving for more than 10 years), some awesome students (I mean that), and a church leadership/congregation that highlights student ministry regularly. We have amazing movie themed retreats, youth group gatherings that tackle tough issues, go on life-changing mission trips, lead music on Sunday mornings, and have gone the second mile, individually and collectively on numerous occasions.

Among many things, we have students run their Invisible Children Schools for Schools campaigns at their public schools. They’ve hosted screenings, walk-a-thons, benefit concerts, and have sold shirts they’ve designed. It seems everyone has a story of being thought of “weird” or “crazy” for being a Christian by friends in their schools. I’ve heard their regrettable confessions and have witnessed many moments of them being “salt and light” in needed and dark places.

So obviously, I’m proud of our students, grateful for the ministry but still wonder are we being faithful to the mission God has called us to and secondly, can we attach the adjective “missional” to our name?

Here’s what I know – our students and families are busy. Everyone is. It’s unfair to label us as self-absorbed, undisciplined, forgetful (although which one of us doesn’t suffer from any of these?) but guilty more regularly than we wish to admit. And we are discontent and are constantly at war with this reality.

I look at my own life and wonder things like “Am I missional enough?”, “Am I serving efficiently and effectively enough?”, “Am I Christian enough?”. These are often very humbling moments for me and from numerous conversations, I am grateful that our students, leaders, and congregants wrestle with the same questions. I suspect that numerous other youth pastors, senior pastors, and all who serve the Kingdom vocationally or not wrestle with this too.

I know a few more things – we care and want to care more. We try and wish we could do more, we fail and beat ourselves up and then pick ourselves up and plan new things. We’re overwhelmed at times, disappointed with ourselves and are self-aware enough to know that we drop the ball from time to time. But we don’t wallow in our missed opportunities but ask the Lord for strength to be faithful in the next one.

I am not sure if we are missional, I don’t know if we are not. I know I have wanted us to be growing followers of Jesus serving in the Kingdom and I know we collectively want this. As a youth pastor, as an individual, I submit this question to the Lord Himself. He will judge us, He will forgive us, He will empower us. This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the time the Lord gives us in this world. We don’t know the number of our days, there’s next week, next month, and tomorrow and in the meantime, may we pick up our crosses and follow the One who has asked us to be, serve, love in the name and way of Jesus. May He find us faithful.

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