youth ministry

Don’t Waste Your Recession

In February 2006, John Piper wrote a post called “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.” While I’ve never had cancer I resonated with his trying to make sense out of something which must have seemed to not make sense to him.

If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose.

Since God has sovereignty over the molecular things in our bodies we can agree that God also has sovereignty over bigger things, like macroeconomics.

For the past several years, starting in about 2007, various tsunami of economic trouble have stricken areas of the United States. We saw early signs of it in Detroit when tens of thousands of white collar workers were let go by the auto industry which knocked down the house of cards in the housing sector where we’d seen 10+ years of double digit growth in home values.

Where you live you likely saw something similar, resulting in economic troubles which in some way effected you.

For those working in the local church, rumors and reality of layoff of economic troubles had a sphinctering effect on giving.

The Upside of Lacking Funding

When the sphinctering effect took over church budgets people had to start asking themselves hard questions.

  • I lost my job working with students, do I love working with students or did I love getting a paycheck?
  • The funding for my program got drastically cut, how can I do money with this new level of funding?
  • Our church looked at our impact and decided our program needed to change, so we’ve created a new type of ministry to adolescents.
  • Losing job security meant that we had to get creative about who and how we reached students.

For most, all of the scenarios above were painful but productive. I believe youth ministry is more healthy today than it was in 2007. That might not be reflected in funding just yet… but the net result of asking ourselves these searching questions has been that stuff changed. When I hang out with youth workers I meet more and more people who operate as innovators, ethnographers, and program creators… and a whole lot less people who just copy what is successful elsewhere or do what they grew up with.

My fear is that now that the recession is in our rear view mirror (look at the stock market, the economy has been thriving for 12-18 months) that the inevitable increase in funding that will eventually follow will allow people to go back to the comfort they once depended on. My fear is that people won’t be as excited about innovation as they are right now. And my fear is that we, as a tribe, will go back to reaching happy church kids because our programs are funded to do so.

Lastly, my fear is that we will waste our recession having learned nothing from the pain.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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