When Honesty Defeats Stupidity

This week was my first week as a legit youth pastor. I’d been a volunteer youth worker at my own church, but this week marked the first time I was a legit, employed youth worker (I even have the paycheck to prove it). My first assignment was heading up the youth program for VBS week. Given that I knew the teens would range from card carrying members of a Sunday School Class, to never having stepped foot inside of a church, teens who have a great home life, to teens who lack any kind of decent home life, I tried my best to put together lessons that could be understood by them all. So how does one approach a situation like this? With honesty. Every night I got up to speak, I spoke honestly to them. I didn’t sugarcoat anything, sing any stupid songs (you know the ones), or tell them any stupid saying (breaking news: a nifty saying doesn’t magically make life better). On every subject I was honest, because I don’t think that deception really has a place in ministry.

When I look at the state of the church today, I don’t blame atheists and I don’t believe God has stopped working, I believe christians have gotten in the way. We are so focused on finding the right formula for outreach, that we don’t let God work. We desire results and stories that are huge, and fail to accept that perhaps God wants us focused on quality rather than quantity. I see it in many churches and I even see it on my own college campus. Instead of being genuine with people, christians try to put their own spin on God and replace a loving Savior who isn’t a coward nor a kill joy, into some mystical being that only delights in horrible music, approves of sloppily made movies,  accepts you only if you’re the right type. OR they get soo focused on getting someone saved that they’ll do anything to get them saved, they’ll promise them complete happiness, a perfect relationship, or absolutely anything just so they can say “I was responsible, for that guy coming to Christ”. If you notice though, they’ll never ever take responsibility for the person slipping in their faith. Basically they become used car salesmen of faith, and although they give you a nice product, they wont teach you how to maintain it,because once you’re off the lot, it’s your problem.

So after that rant, you may still wonder how exactly the whole “honesty” thing, worked out. Well to put it simply….it worked incredibly. After the second night, one of the teens texted me for some advice. After we talked for a little bit, they thanked me for listening and I told them “You’re absolutely welcome, I am glad you opened up to me”. Her response was “Well after you got up and were so honest about life and your faith, I felt like I could open up to you. You’re the first person in church to be honest with me”. You see, she didn’t open up because I sang a corny song, she didn’t open up because I tricked her, and she didn’t open up because of “Brandon’s Gospel Experience”, she opened up because I approached her with honesty and to her that was the difference between, once again walking away from a church without seeing anything different, and leaving a church and seeing something different.

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Pizza, Wrestling, and Ministry

During my involvement with ministries, I’ve been able to create a lot of friendships with some awesome youth, many of which have come about from one thing. Singing a corny song? Nope. Reciting chapters of the Bible? Negatory. They’ve come from wrestling t-shirts. From the classic CM Punk fist and lightning bolt shirt, to a Zack Ryder tee, to the Daniel Bryan “Yes!, Yes!, Yes!” shirt, they’ve started soo many conversations with youth who otherwise wouldn’t have said a single word to me. Is it because wrestling is the greatest thing on earth? Probably not. The reason the shirt meant so much, was because it showed them that I was just another person, I wasn’t some boring Christian who hates everything that they like. It bridged the gap between us and allowed me to develop a friendship with them and when the time came, to share my testimony and faith with them, whether they got saved or not, they all listened, because they weren’t listening to some youth worker, they were talking to a friend.

While attending a Christian college, it saddens me to see how many future youth workers just don’t get it. You can sing all of the worship songs you want, you can quote all the Scripture you want, and you can say all of the corny phrases you desire, but they’ll fall on deaf ears if you haven’t built a friendship with the kids. Too many times I see workers blame the kids for not responding, when in reality the workers have made zero effort to get to know the kids and learn about them, where they come from, what they like, and what they believe. And that’s wrong.

A few years ago, at WinterJam, I got to hear Matthew West speak on youth ministry. He said that when he was younger he asked his dad what the key to an effective ministry was. Expecting to hear about certain songs to sing, or a great Bible study curriculum, Matthew West was confused when his dad said “Lots and lots of Pizza”. West’s father would go on to explain that before you can expect someone to share their heart with you, they have to share a pizza with you, before they can cry with you, they have to laugh with you. And that’s true, we have to stop viewing the world as “wretched sinners” and idiots, and realize they’re people, just like you and me.

So as you go and minister, find out what your “Pizza” or “Daniel Bryan” shirt may be! And look at the opportunities to share the Gospel appear more and more. Perhaps you may find out that ministering is a lot more fun and easy, than the thing you’ve been calling “ministry”.

 

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