Big Changes Ahead!

There are major changes in the EBC Youth Ministry, starting this week! The following video will give you a basic look at WHY we’re making these changes and WHAT the big picture will look like. 

What will Youth Group look like?
Junior High and High School combined at EBC, 7:00-8:30pm. Here’s a basic timeline for what to expect each night (don’t sue us if we don’t follow this precisely every week, it’s meant to give you an idea of what to expect):
7:05 – Icebreaker/Game (get people talking)
7:20 – Announcements
7:25 – Worship Team
7:40 – Gospel Lesson
7:52 – Small Group Discussion & Prayer
8:15 – Food & Hangout in Fellowship Hall
8:30 – Dismissal 

Why is Youth Group changing so much?
We want Youth Group to be a place where nonChristians meet Jesus and where Christian teens have opportunity to serve one another. The Youth Leadership Team decided together that recreating Youth Group would be the best way for those two things to happen. 

How can I help?
Students, you can help by bringing a servant-heart to youth group. Invite a friend. Welcome visitors. Contribute to the small group discussions and prayer times. When the lesson is something you’ve “heard this a million times,” come with a heart that says, “Others haven’t heard this at all.” 
Parents, we will need hosts for the “Food & Hangout” time in Fellowship Hall each week. I’d love to have a rotation of parents and other EBC adults serving our youth. This is a great witness to the nonChristian teens who will come, to show them that EBC values teenager and to communicate, “You are welcome here!”

What is nine23?
nine23 (based off Luke 9:23) is our new “next-level” discipleship opportunity for high school students that meets every-other Thursday night at EBC. This group isn’t for everyone, because we will have expectations and hold you to them… but if you want to grow in your faith and start serving others then this could be a perfect opportunity for you!

What are the expectations for students who attend nine23?
If we see you developing a habit that is not in line with these expectations, we will talk with you. We don’t want to be the police, but we want to see you grow, and these expectations are here as guardrails to help you grow in Christ and serve others. 
1. You don’t want coming to YG to be about your entertainment anymore, you want to grow in your faith and serve others. 
2. Consistent attendance at Sunday morning worship, Youth Group and nine23. (If you aren’t present, how can you serve?)
3. Come prepared to nine23. Whether we’re reading a book or going through a devotional together, we want to hear your thoughts about it! 
4. Expect to be challenged. The youth leaders are making a commitment to you, we want to do ministry together! On the “off-week” we want to meet your friends, visit another student’s game/concert/etc. with you. We want to walk with you as you start getting involved in ministry to your nonChristian friends and peers.

Why should I come to nine23?
Because you want to be a leader, a disciple-maker, and a multiplier (or, an LDX). Not every LDX will look the same, because all have different personalities and gifts. Not every leader likes to be up front. Not every disciple-maker likes to talk about deep philosophical things. Not every multiplier is comfortable in crowds. But if you love Jesus and want others to love him too, then we want to help you discover what it would look like for you to become an LDX… and that is what nine23 is all about. 

Got more questions? I’d love to tackle them… shoot me a personal email or leave a comment below. 

Youth Ministry + Jesus – Fun = Biblical?

Josh Cousineau published a post on the Gospel Coalition website this morning entitled “The Only Foundation for Youth Ministry” that’s getting some traction.  That’s a good thing.  I thought it was a pretty strong article.  BUT, reading the comments on these type of posts can be frustrating.  I even linked it up on my Facebook and had a good back-and-forth with one of my biggest youth ministry mentors over whether or not it was actually a good article or not.

So if you haven’t read it, use the link above and read it first, then continue reading…

Be Consistent in Critiques
I usually can’t stand these types of articles because I believe they take cheap shots against Youth Ministry that they don’t take against other areas of church-ministry.  What pitfall within the field of YM is not found elsewhere in the church: an over-reliance on “relevance”, replacing biblical teaching/preaching with good moralistic advice, or an unhealthy desire to draw a large crowd through fun/events/flashiness?  Isn’t that something that every church wrestles through?  If your pastor/church doesn’t wrestle with those things, then maybe they aren’t passionate about seeing God’s Word transform real people’s lives?  (yes, I really mean that… but that’s a subject for another post)

Maybe it’s just because I am a youth pastor, but it seems that whenever Youth Ministry is brought up on sites like The Gospel Coalition or Desiring God or other similar sites (both of which I read very regularly and highly respect, which is probably why it’s so frustrating to me) it seems there’s very little recognition that maybe… just maybe… Youth Ministry isn’t all about fun.  Youth Ministry is just as diverse as church-ministry, yet it often gets a very unfair stereotype.  If there’s a pizza party, Maybe there’s a reason for it that is good and healthy and redemptive?  It seems to me that Youth Ministry gets graded with a different scorecard than other ministries in the church, and I’m tired of it.  Honestly, I wrestle over whether or not I should even read the posts about Youth Ministry on those sites anymore because I find them so cartoonish and unfair.

Who Intentionally Builds on Fun?!
So here’s the thing – Again, I liked the article mentioned above, and I agree that this critique of fun-centered youth ministry greatly distorts biblical ministry.  At the same time, my youth leaders and I hosted an event for the teens in my church last week that we called “The Night of Awesomeness, part deux.”  It was fun (awesome, even… though obviously in the non-theological sense).  Teenagers came whom we haven’t seen in quite a while, and a number of students brought friends for the first time.  One of the friends sought me out at the end to shake my hand to thank me for letting him come.  Is that a terrible, unbiblical thing?  Do you really think he expect to come to youth group next week and have it be the same as something we’re obviously tongue-in-cheek calling “The Night of Awesomeness?”  I could imagine someone reading this article and thinking about the “Night of Awesomeness” and thinking, “Wow, I wish Pastor Mike would read this article, his ministry is all about the fun and needs more Jesus!”

Yes, there are youth ministries who seem to build what they do on a foundation of fun – but I absolutely guarantee you they don’t see it that way.  I bet they would have well thought out biblical and theological reasons for doing things that way.  I have never met another youth worker who isn’t passionate about seeing teenagers develop into spiritually mature young men and women.

We’re Always Contextualizing
Tim Keller insightfully writes, “to over-contextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of their culture, but to under-contextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of the culture you come from. So there’s no avoiding it.”

We’re always contextualizing (presenting our message in a way that is both understandable and meaningful to our audience).  If we aren’t contextualizing, then we’re reading straight from the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic original languages of the Bible… if you’re using the King James Version, you’re still contextualizing.  We are always contextualizing.

We Don’t Live in Foundations, We Live in Homes Build on Solid Foundations
The gold in Cousineau’s article is this – We need constant reminders that our foundation is Jesus Christ.  The problem with foundations is that they crack when they’re weak and unmaintained.  If your ministry isn’t firmly built on the Gospel and if your commitment to the Gospel begins to be underemphasized as you contextualize, then that foundation is in danger of being replaced by something else.  THAT’S why I posted it on Facebook for my other Youth Ministry friends to read – as a reminder to maintain our foundations.

Jesus Christ is your foundation, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build walls and a roof, paint the walls, buy some furniture (perhaps even some couches and a pool table!).  We don’t live in foundations, we live in homes build on solid foundations.  The foundation shapes what the home looks like and imposes limits and boundaries on what kind of house can be safely built on it.  But foundations also allow great freedom for the home-owners to paint and decorate and entertain.

Fellow Youth Ministers – be encouraged!  We are doing an important work, let us not grow weary or discouraged.  Keep your hand on the plow, investing in students for the sake of the Gospel.  Be faithful to the foundation of Jesus Christ, being careful to neither over-contextualize nor under-contextualize.

Concerned Church Members – pray for youth youth pastor and the team of youth workers in your church.  Bless them, encourage them, invest in them.  Buy your youth pastor breakfast and ask questions in order to understand (not in order to rebut and convince them that they’re unbiblical and shallow).  Finally, remember that you’re called to youth ministry too, even if you’re not a parent – learn the names of a few students in your church and begin praying faithfully for them.