Circa 2000-2002, I was training to be a pilot. My CFI instructors always drilled in me that all your work is done on the ground before you ever takeoff. It didn’t matter how many hours or experienced you had in the cockpit, you still had to re-calibrate all your instruments and re-inspect the aircraft for every scheduled flight. My favorite part was the recalibration process during pre-flight inspection. Every great pilot who does a thorough pre-flight inspection takes great pride in paying close attention to every instrument (altimeter, GPS, ATIS, radios, engine control, flaps, navigation, mixer, propeller control) that is relevant to making the flight successful.
I think the same thing applies to youth pastors when preparing our youth ministries for the 21st century. Every youth pastor must pay close attention to what will make our youth ministries most successful in a very postmodern and biblical illiterate context. The student we ministered to 10 years ago is a completely different student today. Every year (or flight), you have to inspect your youth ministry assumptions, practices, tools and methods very thoroughly and re-calibrate those things that will ensure great ministry to the next generation of students.
- The need to network with other youth workers. It is a lonely journey out there and we need other like minded youth workers to come alongside us to help resource and pray with us. Youth workers have to leave their egos at the door and connect and network with other youth pastor. Successful and healthy youth pastors are the one who are plugged into a local network of youth pastors. Youth pastors must understand, theologically, that God has called his local leaders to be in relationship (aka unity) with others in order to further the Kingdom of God at a faster rate.
- The need to get more students committed to the mission of the church. The next generation is the future of the church so we need to teach them how to already lead the church. The mission of the church is to rescue the world of its plight. This means getting our students not only loving God, but loving, serving, caring and befriending others.
- The insane importance of discipleship. Churches need more adults pouring into the lives of students. The church needs more adults who are willing to disciple the teens of the church. Discipleship is not just shoving “deep-theological” information down the throats of teens. Discipleship is about getting students to serve and practice being a co-labor for the Kingdom here and now while getting more adults to come alongside teens to help them become healthy adults.
- The need to recapture an incarnational approach to evangelism. You cannot do discipleship well if your students are not doing evangelism well. You cannot separate discipleship and evangelism. Incarnational evangelism (Matthew 5.13-19, John 1.1-18, Philippians 2.4-8, and Colossian 1.15-19) argues that:
Jesus went into the world —–> we (students and leaders) go into the world
Jesus embodied the traits of God —–> We (students and leaders) embody the traits of God as we witness and evangelize
Jesus engaged relationship with no expectations ——> We (students and leaders) engaged relationship with no expectations.
Incarnational evangelism invites the youth worker and students to be Jesus to other non-Christian students they have relationship with. Incarnational Evangelism is relationally driven. Evangelism happens when there is a invested and trusted relationship. Youth ministry evangelism means we (adults and students) win students over by hanging out with them and befriending them as we model Jesus. We win the right to share Jesus because of Christ like character and trust.