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youth ministry

Too big to fail

Too big to fail” is a colloquial term in describing certain financial institutions which are so large and so interconnected that their failure will be disastrous to the economy, and which therefore must be supported by government when they face difficulty. ~ Wikipedia

Since the mid-1980’s the federal government has mandated that some banks are so important to the operations of our country that they, literally, will not be allowed to go out of business.

No matter how bad it gets. No matter much much money they lose. If you stick your ATM into the machine or swipe your card at checkout, it should work. Those companies can be bought and sold, they can be taken over by the government, and their business practices can morph over time.

But these banks are too important to the livelihood of our country to be allowed to go away. 

Youth ministry is too big to fail

Youth ministry is too important to the Kingdom to be allowed to fail. (As I wrote in this article, we do need to address our actual failure though.)

It’s too important to be folded in as an extension of children’s ministry or simplified into a church-facing, sterilized family ministry. (I love potent, community facing family ministry!)

It’s too important to be tamed by lawyers and protected from actually doing ministry by safety policies. And all-too-often true youth ministry can’t be measured by business goals or contained to mission statements, it’s bigger and more important than those things created for Main Street.

We need to remember what youth ministry has always been… A little bit wild, a little bit dangerous, and recklessly chasing all of God’s kids.

Organizations like Youth for Christ and YoungLife were created, not as nice extensions of the church, but as a response rebellion to the churches failure to reach teenagers for Christ.

Sometimes, youth ministry isn’t nice. I know too many friends who were nice about getting fired for reaching “the wrong kids.” I know too many people who are silent as a board embraces stupidity to the default of its most important ministry. I know too many people now tamed by jobs they hate to hold onto a sliver of hope that one day things will get better.

We’re too nice. We need to embrace rebellion again. We need to drag this thing back to the drawing  board and innovate like we used to.

We need to re-embrace our 1-eared Mickey-Mouseness when it means reaching “the wrong kids.” We need to be willing to get fired for the sake of bringing “the wrong kids” into the church. We need to yawn at staff meetings. We need to forsake office hours. We need to be more willing to please our Father than please the board.

We need to adapt to a climate that is less likely to fund youth ministry endeavors, becoming empowered by unleashing our creativity instead of held back by a lack of resourcing.

We need to get really engrossed in ethnography while restlessly becoming disinterested in chasing the latest craze.

Precisely because youth ministry is too big to fail we need to step back, take a deep breath, and allow ourselves to dream again!