Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Give Up Games in your Youth Ministry: Start Changing the World

A friend of mine travels the world speaking to young people about issues of faith.  He described the powerful ways in which teenagers as young as 13 are literally putting their lives on the lines to change the world because of crazy dreams and visions that they have had from Jesus.  I felt shivers travel up and down my spine as I heard of miracles and things that I would have described as impossible.  After he had shared these stories from the Middle East and Africa he went on to describe ministry here.  He talked about the typical youth ministry that works hard to entice kids to come by entertaining them.  These words hit home.  “While kids around the world are changing world history through their faith in Jesus – we are playing games. 

I took these words as a challenge and slowly over time I stopped running a youth group.  I didn’t know what to expect.  We just started having dinner together once a week with kids that we had met on the streets and at the bus stops.  These kids looked in awe at the table filled with food.  Several of them told me they had never eaten a mean around the table with their families before.  A few others mentioned that this was their first mean of the day (at 7 at night!).  We knew this was a group of kids that had no business hanging out in the same room.  We decided to help start the conversation off with an ice breaker as we ate.  I asked the question: “What is one thing that you would change about your week?” The girl on my right went first.  She had traveled over an hour and a half on the city bus system to be there that night.  We had made an impact in her life through a rec program we had run at her elementary school years before.  All we had done was showed up and played football in the parking lot, but apparently – that was enough.  I didn’t know what she was going to say as she opened her mouth, but I wasn’t expecting this: “I would change the fact my little brother was murdered this week.” 

It took me awhile to catch up with the fact that someone should say something in response to this bomb she had dropped in our lap.  It took me another moment to realize that needed to be me.  Something very real happened in that moment that set the course for this new group.  This week I was reading an article on christianpost.com about being trapped in a youth ministry mindset.  I would encourage you to read it, but more so I would say: don’t be content with playing games.
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