When teens hurt, youth workers are often the first to know. When parents panic or worry about their children, they are the first to be called, and when tragedy strikes a community, they are the pillars many look to communicate how students should process and confront challenging and life-changing situations.
This Friday across America, most communities will be hosting a high school football game and a significant portion of the youth in that community will be in attendance. But how many youth workers will be there?
Before school a group of students will stand next to cars near the high school, smoking, talking, and trying to psyche each other up to endure the teachers’ glares for the day. They may even share a story or two about how a cop followed them around the night before. How many of these students are known my name and preferences by a local youth worker?
Have you noticed that “programming” has become a bad word in many youth ministry circles?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the push-back against those of us who have become so program-focused that we lose sight of why those programs were created to begin with. Sadly, I’ve seen way too many youth ministries running a Wednesday night program for all the kids that are dropped off by mom and dad. Relational ministry trumps this kind of programming any day of the week, an argument I support throughout my book Connect.
I often think about our role as Christian leaders in the local communities in which we live. I think my vantage point comes from a dual-community citizenship understanding of 1 Corinthians 12. While Paul was clearly writing to Corinthian Christians in the context of addressing stuff inside the church, I think the same principle can be contextualized to the present day to address a need in our greater communities where we live. I'm sure there is a fancy hermeneutics term for this, but I call it a dual citizenship.