* When I use the term youth parachurch organization, I am referring to organizations such as: Young Life, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Youth for Christ.
My argument: Youth parachurch organizations can be huge assets to youth ministries across the globe.
Problem: Many youth pastors don’t want anything to do with parachurch organizations because:
1) They “steal” students from the church youth group.
2) They don’t assimilate students back into the church body.
3) They don’t concentrate on discipleship.
4) Youth pastors have too many responsibilities within the church and wear too many hats as it is, and they don’t have the time to cultivate additional outside partnerships.
5) Parachurch communicators are not proclaiming the Gospel. Read more here if you are curious about how and why Young Life got in trouble for not preaching the Gospel.
6) Youth pastors feel they need to focus on the students in their own church context before going beyond.
–> I am going to show my cards…I love youth parachurch organizations. One of my youth ministry mentors loves and worked in Young Life. Also, I have had great success working with both FCA and Young Life. In my experience, I love parachurch leaders because they are functioning like real world missionaries reaching lost kids. Here is my rationale for why parachurch leaders rock:
– Parachurch leaders know and pursue evangelism like it is going out of style. Unfortunately church youth ministries have deeply failed to embrace and do evangelism effectively in a postmodern context. Parachurch leaders have a firm focus on strategies in youth outreach, a solid theological understanding of incarnational outreach, how to appropriately talk about Jesus without looking like a cultural irrelevant freak, and do inside/out evangelism very effectively.
– The parachurch leader knows how to fund raise and raise support. The longevity a leader’s parachurch youth ministry efforts is determined by the success of fund raising efforts. There is a huge urgency to raise financial support. Having to fund raise gives a ministry leader a new appreciation, focus, and mission for why they are doing what they are doing. There is no messing around if you are having to provide the $ for your ministry – it is all business. The parachurch leaders that I met with were always intense, focused, and on mission because they knew time and money was limited. Therefore, they needed maximum results in a minimal amount of time.
Youth pastors can learn a lot from youth parachurch leaders and vice versa. What youth pastors need to remember when a parachurch organization comes into the community:
– Youth parachurch organizations are the founding fathers of youth ministry. Respect your youth ministry roots and history. Learn more about the history of youth ministry by clicking here.
– Do youth ministry with an urgency and with no complacency. I have found that major difference between a paid church youth pastor and a self funded parachurch ministry leader is that the youth pastor may be more prone to complacency.
– Observe and assess on how parachurch organizations effectively reach the school campus for Jesus. Last year, I was talking with a big wig for Youth for Christ and I told him I spend a lot of time on the school campus and he was surprised. He said it is highly unlikely for a paid church youth pastor to spend x amount of hours on school campuses. Why is that? Every youth pastor should be a regular visible presence on the school campuses he/she serves (establish connections with school administrators and get permission, of course!). You may be surprised to find (as I was), that school personnel will even call you directly when there are issues on campus, even if your students are not involved.
– I think paid church youth pastors can learn a thing about raising finances for a self-supported ministry. Youth pastors cannot always rely on the church to fund the ministry vision, mission, and goals.
– Parachurch ministry leaders don’t know how to assimilate kids into your church because they don’t know that you or your church exists. It is your job to connect with these organizations to ensure that students have a landing pad and are not left standing alone without a clue what to do with faith. It is even better if the parachurch leader attends your church.
– Your students may need a parachurch ministry that meets them where they are at. Church youth group may not necessarily be the best fit for every student you come across. Nate Stratman stated it best: What is best for each student as far as long term spiritual formation is concerned, and how can the church and YL (parachurch) play formative roles in that process?
– Youth pastors need to know students who attend their church are not prized possessions. They are special, important, and deserving of our time and energy, but they are not “ours.” They belong to the Lord. We have to learn to trust Him with them!
– Students need more trusted adults in their life. Research proves that students with healthy adult influences (beyond their parents) grow into healthier adults than their counterparts.
What is your experience with parachurch organizations?
Do you have local parachurch ministries alive and thriving in your community?
What is your relationship with them?
How can we better love our parachurch friends, and partner with them to advance the Kingdom?