So I have been reading Chris Folmsbee’s (president/CEO of SonLife) blog. (I am still waiting to read his book).
His latest post really connected with a number of thoughts I have been chasing in these last few weeks. Check it out:
"I am thinking that in the end, the more glocal (local ministry with comprehensive impact over time is how I am choosing to define this word), contextualized voices we can cultivate and sustain the greater hope we instill and the greater the impact might be."
Being in ministry for as long as I have has not made me an expert in the field by any stretch but it has opened my eyes to a lot to the dynamics of youth ministry. I have seen a lot of stuff that works and stuff that does not. I used to sit regularly with a group of youth pastors (ministerial) and each fall when we would convene our first meeting of the season there would always be a new crop of fresh faces. Youth pastors that had just gotten hired on over summer. And after a while you could to tell which ones would last the year and which ones would be gone by the end of it. It’s sad really but I think I even remember betting on the results one year…
And it’s not just that – I have seen ministries crash and burn repeated. And in my humble opinion the reason has often been because ministry model did not fit the context. (square peg round hole)
Here’s the basic problem:
Ministry Franchising: Whether its willow creek, saddleback, sonlife, YFC, or whatever other stripe you choose there is a tendency to attempt to clone successful ministry models and strategies. Granted: Hybels, Warren, Fields, everyone one of them always say, “Don’t just cut and paste – adapt!” But that advice is rarely listened to. Reason? You just don’t sell the reams and reams of ministry material (books, DVDs, software, etc) by advertising it as something to change. Instead the underlying principle that gets communicated is: If it worked for me it will work for you.
Time: For as much as thoughtful youth leaders want to adapt the material they get – they simply do not have the time or resources to do the work. Almost everything in youth ministry is organized around quick – big results. Basically youth pastors have a year to prove themselves in. On top of that they usually have young families. So the time crunch dictates that they take short cuts. I don’t know a youth leader that doesn’t take short cuts. Curriculum designers know this. They craft their material in bite size chunks so that even if you don’t do any prep at all you can walk into your youth meeting glance at you book and wing it – with success. I’ve done it!
Narrow View: typically I would say youth leaders are only exposed to one or maybe two different types of resources. Their church may be hooked into the Willow network – or they could have a church full of SonLife Coaches – but it is rare to find a ministry that has the advantage of exposure to multiple models/resources. About as rare as it is to find a youth ministry with an adequate budget. So if a person’s exposure is limited one can only expect that the results are going to be skewed in that direction.
So put these factors together and it’s easy to see how ministries often misfit their context. The intentions are good but the results are still lacking. But on top of all that we have people like Mark Yaconelli who comes along and suggests that we need to slow down and be more contemplative. And I think he is right. But in some ways this sorta only adds pressure to the already stressed out youth leader trying to pack ministry into their busy lives. So I have been wondering about a few solutions to this problem but you’ll have to wait till the next post to read about them.