Joshua 1:1-3 NIV Joshua 1:1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them– to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.
The LORD told Joshua to bring his people into a place they have never been before. The LORD called Joshua to leave their normal place so they could cross the Jordan River in order to get to their land. I wonder if place and space are directly correlated with God’s people?
I have really been wrestling around with the theological implications of where and when to do high school youth group. I am getting more convinced that having high school group ONLY at the church is NOT the best place and space. I have been asking these questions:
Does youth group need to be at the church?
Does youth group need a set/time or date?
What type of students will attend youth group at the church?
What other students would come to a youth meeting if it was outside of the church?
Is the church space the most effective place to do youth meetings?
My rethinking the location of the high school youth group has led me to believe that: it is more about creating an experiential space where everyone can belong before they “believe”.
When youth group becomes more about “our” building or “our” youth group then “our” youth group becomes a holy huddle that is comfortable in the church walls. It is like we build an empire so kids will come to us. One of the biggest myth’s is: If you build it, they will come.
It drives me nuts when youth ministries spend mega $ to pimp out their youth rooms. What does this theologically communicate about our Kingdom priorities?
AND the assumption is…. that non-believers will actually think your church building is safe and cool. If a nonbeliever doesn’t think your youth ministry empire is cool….. you are screwed. Students might as well buy a Disneyland pass.
I am suggesting that smaller church youth pastors contemplate about finding other spaces and places outside of the church walls to do youth group. Think about it…. what if nonbelievers felt included in “neutral” or “their” space and place before they believed. Unfortunately, doing youth ministry out of the church has its own baggage, which turns nonbelievers off before they even step into “our” youth room.
I argue that youth ministries and youth pastors need to creatively create places and spaces (outside of the church) for all high school students to feel as though they belong before they believe.
The problem is….. we immediately want them to become like us before they belong. This is why many USA youth ministries are holy huddles of ONLY Christian students. It is tough allowing people to belong if they are not like us. It makes us uncomfortable when they don’t: talk like us, believe like us, dress like us, and think like us. Youth pastors get out in the world–go to bars, go to a lot of movies, go to concerts, go to coffee shops, go to the mall, go to the arcades, go to Barnes and Noble, go to the beach, go to the high school. Just go somewhere other than your comfortable and safe youth ministry office and youth room.
So maybe as we enter the 21st century YM, God is calling youth ministries to set up shop in places other than the church? Maybe church becomes the home base for youth ministries, but not the ONLY place high school Christians hang out? What if we had variety of youth ministries at a variety of sites?