Youth Ministry – What Exactly Is That?
But thought is exactly what was missing in every one of those cases… because there is a certain anti-intellectualism that permeates virtually all ministries.
Ministry puts little emphasis on the mind but great emphasis on feelings … loving God… loving one’s neighbor. But the latter too often becomes making love to one’s neighbor… and sadly… to their children.
A Google search for “youth ministry” brings back nearly four million pages… all referring to youth ministry. But few pages… if any… can be found that actually define it.
Using the word to define itself by saying that youth ministry is ministering to youths is just an example of a lack of the presence of intelligent… knowing… mind in ministry.
The word ministry itself is perhaps the most overused… undefined… word in Christendom. Though there are millions of examples of ministries. By defining ministry itself… we automatically exclude everything that isn’t ministry… everything that does not fit that definition.
Some say “Everything is ministry!”… but the Gospel (Matt. 7:21) disagrees and says there are apparent ministries where one does evil under the guise of doing ministry…
Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven…
Many will say to me on that day… “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?”
Then I will declare to them solemnly… “I never knew you. Depart from me you evildoers.
So here’s a definition of ministry… and all examples must meet its requirements… or be excluded.
Religious activity… that brings both minister and people closer to God.
Now with that definition no one… in their right mind… could claim that violating sexual boundaries with children and adolescents was ministry. Such activity is not religious and does not bring both minister and people closer to God.
So the youth minister/coach who… with no medical training… helps prevent testicular cancer in teenage boys by checking them for it… cannot assert… as he did… that he was doing health ministry.
Unable to hide behind ‘ministry’ as defined here… he would need to confront the real reasons for his predatory sexual behavior. So his treatment had to begin with a rational definition of ministry.
Because of the false belief that predatory ministers are helping youths by violating sexual boundaries… there is genuine abuse with lasting residual non-sexual effects. You can read more about those at the URL below if you want to know how pervasive they can be.
What’s a youth?
Typically we make a vague separation between children and youths by the onset of puberty. I say vague because girls generally enter puberty sooner than boys… and puberty can be early or late in both boys and girls.
It’s probably more useful to define a youth by their present social context… and the rites of passage that take place in that context. So… a 13 year old eighth grader is not the same ‘youth’ as a 15 year old sophomore who is about to get a driver’s permit… or an 18 year old senior who is thinking of getting engaged… or planning to leave the family nest… and its influence… and go to college.
So… a youth is
A minor… at a specified stage of development.
And “youth ministry” has to bring both these minors… and their ministers… closer to God through religious activity.
An emphasis of youth ministry then would be to help young people cope with their present stage of development… such as the onset of puberty and its meaning in Christian life… and to prepare them for the next stage of development.
For example… driving creates more mobility for the teenager… more opportunities to get into various kinds of danger… some of which may be serious risks to life… to health… and to morals.
So youth ministry can be understood as integrating religious values with specific increasing freedoms and independence.
How this is done is a major task of definition… of putting the intelligent mind into ministry… and not just hanging out with… being with… being there for… or serving… youths.
Thomas Drummond, Ph.D. is trained in clinical, developmental and neuropsychology. He has worked with the problems of clergy and religious of the catholic church for more than 20 years. Many youth ministers had the mistaken notion that their sexual behavior with youths was actually ministry. With this unfounded idea…they crossed sexual boundaries with teens to their own detriment…to that of the church…and that of their young charges.
Learn more about this at http://www.boundaries-for-effective-ministry.org/youth-ministry
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