People often ask me “What is Youth Ministry?” I italicize ‘is’ because they are not asking what I do in Youth Ministry, or what is it like in the experiential sense. Is refers to a metaphysical understanding of the what—Youth Ministry. The ‘is’ of Youth Ministry is difficult to explain. Youth Ministry is about leading young people to be Disciples of Christ, about learning their faith and sharing it. It is about being the hands and feet of Christ in their everyday world. Youth Ministry is about talking to a parent whose son is driving them nuts; while at the same time, that parent is sharing about their divorce and upcoming surgery. Youth Ministry is fundraising for that summer mission trip, ridiculous amounts of paperwork, permission slips, and talk outlines. Youth Ministry is crying with the kid who put a gun to his head the night before to break up his parents fight and you, as his minister, telling him how much pain your life would experience if he had shot himself.
What is youth ministry? It is…complicated…to say the least.
The ‘is’ of Youth Ministry deals with a desire to walk with a young person towards another person, a ‘who’, a ‘someone’—God. A God who is flesh and blood, powerful yet willing to be weak; a God who saturates every moment of that young person’s day, yet will willingly leave if the young person says so. Youth Ministry is an expression of the love of Christ in an individual (the youth worker) who is willing to love the same Christ in those young people.
Are you confused? Me too.
Maybe when you read the word “metaphysical” you were looking for a more specific definition, but metaphysics deals with abstract thought or subjects: existence, causality, substance or truth principles. Youth Ministry is difficult to explain. It deals with the everyday abstract subject and existence that is this substance we call a young person. Their family, school, joys, struggles and their love of gummy worms are all intertwined in the isness of Youth Ministry.
Youth Ministry is mundane and exquisite; weird and obvious; painful yet joy filled. It is Calvary and the Resurrection all at the same time in the small, yet eternal confines of a teenager’s heart and soul.