Youth Ministry as Family (Part 3)

This is my third post on viewing our Youth Ministries through the lens of family. You can read the first and second post here.

Possibly the greatest way we operate as a family in ministry is by serving one another. The word leadership is used sparingly in the NT. Which is interesting because most of the time in our churches pastors refer to themselves primarily as leaders. Jesus’ default title, however, was not a leader, but a servant. As Jesus stated himself–“The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

This brings up an important question. Do we view ourselves as leaders who serve, or servants who lead? The difference could be vitally important.

Although there are a myriad of ways to practice servanthood and servant leadership, the ability to show hospitality is one of the clearest ways we communicate the open nature of God’s family. This is particularly important when working with young people.

Hospitality is shown through opening up the doors of our homes and church buildings, but also by the way we lead our lives. Are we a welcoming, safe presence in the lives of young people? Do they sense that they can be real with us? When they come to us with their struggles and needs, do we respond with lavish grace and comfort?

I’m often surprised by how little the Western World understands hospitality. I’ve had the privilege to travel outside of the USA a few times in my life. One of my favorite parts of these trips is seeing how the church operates in other contexts. In Ecuador, in Kenya, in Mexico, church isn’t relegated to a Sunday service, or a gathering midweek. Rather, the church has a heartbeat that drums in sync with the community in which it exists.

Hospitality is a not only a welcoming ‘inside,’ but a welcoming ‘outside.’ It’s about getting outside the walls of our churches to serve and love; it’s about being Jesus with skin on.

Pastors aren’t just desk keepers, walled up inside a room with four walls, but are missionaries getting to know their community and context at large. We seek to be where the people are, aware of the needs of our community. The same thing can be said of our youth ministries.

Are we aware of the needs of community of students? Do we offer respite and relief, all-the-while showcasing hospitality?

Again, are we leaders who occasionally serve, or servants who lead?

One of the famous youth ministry adages I grew up hearing was, “What you win them with, is what you keep them with.” There are obviously holes in this statement–people change and mature, etc–but the premise still holds water.  Are we building ministries that only work on a attraction/seeker level, or are we creating space for people to serve?

I’m amazed by this current generation for many different reasons, but one of the major tenets that fascinates me is their propensity to get involved. They flock towards opportunities to serve and make a difference. What a great characteristic for a generation to have! Are we building on that, creating a place where they can serve?

Hospitality takes different forms, but it always has to do with serving. If we model serving in our lives, we will help to create a ministry built on servanthood and hospitality. Those are the kind of youth ministries and churches that do more than make noise for a while, but instead plant deep roots that continue to grow long after the days of youth ministry.


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