Here is how to tell if a youth minister is serious about their ministry. Ask them when they’re going to go into proper ministry. If they punch you in the face they’re serious about their ministry. The thing is, youth ministry is proper ministry. And as proper ministry it’s not the preserve of young brash arrogant people who need to be tested out and trained in youth ministry before they’re allowed to do the real stuff1. Youth ministry has arrogant, brash people, but then so does any form of ministry. Now fortunately it does seem like more and more people are treating youth ministry as just another form of ministry and less of a training ground, but there’s still work to do.
And most of this work needs to be done by youth workers. If maybe we’d mature up a bit and stop making comments about punching people in the face and we’d start loving Jesus a bit more we’d do ourselves and the young people we minister to a favour. But also, if we’d stop booking only other youth workers to speak at our training events and conferences, that’d help too. I mean, there’s a lot we can learn from other youth workers and a lot we should learn, but when the conference for pastors and church leaders has Piper, Grudem, Carson, and other people who’ve preached through all of Romans over three years speaking at them and the conference for youth workers has this guy who’s spoken on Romans 8 a few times, and Romans 12:1 every week… There are youth ministers craving great solid teaching to encourage them in their ministry. Maybe we could start getting people to train us to do that?
1 Here’s a thought, and one I just throw out in a footnote and may come back to later; is one of the main reasons we put people into youth ministry as a training opportunity because it’s easier for them to have authority and power over young people and children than it is people their own own age? And if it’s a question of power and authority isn’t that a bit worrying? Because people’s power and authority doesn’t come from their age or experience but rather from God. Obviously there are good reasons for putting people into training with youth and children’s stuff, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily the primary reason.