A magazine I write for asked for some articles about Strategic Youth Ministry. Not being one who likes to go with the flow, I submitted one that took the opposite approach -- how strategy can get in the way of ministering to youth.

It didn't get printed, though. (Update: Read the comments to find out why!)

But you can read it!

Strategy, Purpose, Programming . . .and other terms that get in the way of ministering to youth
by Kirk Moore

Writers, thinkers and leaders of youth ministry publishing organizations love to analyze the state of youth ministry and to guess what the next shift in culture means for youth ministry strategy. Scholars and marketers and publishers try to offer resources that will equip leaders to run effective youth ministries.

What happens if it all misses the mark?

Here are a few terms associated with youth ministry, a brief definition, and then an opinion about how the term gets in the way of ministering to youth:
  • Strategy – a plan for winning – its history is related to plans for military victories.
    If the plan is about winning, then it runs contrary to the idea that in Christ, there is no US or THEM. There’s no winning and losing. We’re not engaged in a battle. We’re helping people develop deeper relationships with God.
  • Purpose – the end that guides the action or the means.
    If every action in a youth ministry is driven according to a purpose statement, the unanticipated, yet extraordinary ‘God moments’ can go unnoticed. So many of the most memorable and life-changing times in youth ministry start with something that seems purposeless.
  • Programming – a group of activities with a specific purpose.
    I used to have a ‘clipboard of fun’ that I used to see what the next part of the program was for a particular youth meeting. Knowing that sticking to the programming at all costs ALWAYS (did I just use and absolute statement?) ends up missing golden ministry opportunities, I regularly checked what was on the clipboard with the group and asked for ideas about what to do next.
  • Philosophy – a belief system that guides actions.
    What happens when group members don’t agree with the belief system that a leader has? What happens when the questions challenge the very basic understanding of what it means to follow God? If a leader’s philosophy doesn’t allow for questions, then youth will ask those questions somewhere else.
  • Excellence – performing beyond a limit or standard.
    Striving for excellence in youth ministry draws in students who appreciate a high performance standard. It also repels many who march to a different drummer. Ministries that truly want to strive for excellence should also expect and celebrate things that turn out completely wrong.
No strategy, purpose statement, program, philosophy or drive to excellence can ever replace the most fundamental and unchanging necessities of ministry. It’s about pointing people towards God and knowing that God is capable to accomplish whatever it is God wants to accomplish.


Anonymous said...

I wish I would have received this article (I checked my records, I didn't) -- it definitely would have made it into the magazine. Nice work!


Kirk said...

So I wonder what's a more interesting story to share -- a disappearing email or an article that was too much against the grain?

Anonymous said...

Well, the article wasn't too much against the grain for that magazine (since I'm the editor and make those calls), so the story must be an email snafu.


Kirk said...

"The magazine editor reads my blog, had never gotten the article when I submitted it and then made some great comments on the whole thing." is the best one to share :)