When it comes to speaking Spanish, let’s just say…I can’t. I’ve been down to Central America a few times on missions trips & every time I’m down there I pick up a few words and phrases, thinking to myself “I’m doing pretty good.”
But then I have my other moments.
I had organized a faith walk for a large youth group one evening on a mission trip. I had the teenagers find one partner and stand side by side with them in a line. One person received a blindfold to put on and the other person was going to be their guide. They had to “have faith” by listening to the voice of their friend and so on and so forth. You get the picture.
Well, two young ladies at the front of the line didn’t seem to understand the directions.
Since they had no clue what to do, I thought I’d try to jump in and clearly articulate what must be done.
So, I walked up to them and put a blind fold over my eyes and proclaimed to them:
“No see. No see.”
They still weren’t understanding so I thought I’d say it slower:
“N—— o. S——-eeeeeeeee.”
By the way, people who speak other languages don’t understand you when you are still speaking in English and just pronouncing your words slower.
Both the girls were looking at each other and laughing. Then they were looking at me and laughing. I wondered if I had a booger in my nose? But I didn’t. Thank God!
At that point, it clicked. As one of the teenagers from my youth group was standing by and watching all of this unfold. Our eyes met and we busted out laughing at my ridiculous attempt to communicate in the native tongue…
If you know Spanish, you will understand that what I was communicating to these girls the whole time was:
“No, yes.” “No, yes.”
Because the English word “no” is the same as the Spanish word “no.” But the English word “see” sounds exactly like the Spanish word “si” which means “yes.”
I felt like a moron. But it was really funny.
Just as with my communication attempts, sometimes in ministry we really can’t see where God may be leading. It feels like we are just trudging through. Maintaining ministry rather than being infused with God’s vision for what He’s called you to steward.
So what do you do next? Hope for the best? Let the chips lie where they fall? Just keep keeping on? Throw a bunch of activity into the calendar and be really, really busy? By the way, that last one usually gives a false sense of security in ministry. We assume we are making a difference because we are so busy. But if we take a proper evaluation of all the activity that surrounds us, is there any “God momentum?”
So where do you start when you are looking to establish a visionary direction for youth ministry?
Prayer? Probably a great place to start!
The Bible? A definite must!
God’s presence? Essential!
In no way am I minimizing those things because they are of the utmost importance.
But where do you go from there?
I wish I could say I’ve come fully equipped with creativity and innovation when it comes to vision and what I want to see happen in ministry. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. More likely than not, it’s not usually the case! But don’t tell anyone please.
I want to touch on one more area that is essential for godly momentum and vision for youth ministry. To be honest, I had never heard this talked about in youth ministry circles before, but it is absolutely necessary. That is:
THE EXISTING VISION OF YOUR CHURCH.
What is the cause of Christ for your local church as a whole?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that a youth ministry’s vision needs to be hand in hand with the vision of your church.
Youth ministry is not a separate entity. I’ve seen and experienced ministries within a church that feel and function as if they were it’s own mini church within the church. That’s not godly or effective!
Paul writes to a local body of believers about this issue. He says in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13…
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (ESV)
You see, there was division taking place in the local church. People in the church were claiming to follow different leaders. And Paul asked the question, “Is Christ divided?”
No. Absolutely not. So if Christ is not divided, then His kingdom cause for your local church shouldn’t be divided either. His vision for your local church shouldn’t be divided. But sometimes those divisions can take place due to the pride that is in our hearts.
Paul continues this idea of unified vision and ministry through several chapters, reminding the Corinthian church that it is us together who have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16b), it is us together who are God’s “fellow workers, field, and building” (1 Cor. 3:9), it us together who are “the temple of Christ” (1 Cor. 3:16, 17), and so on.
All this to say youth ministry or any other ministry of the church should be aligned with the vision of the local church. If it’s not, then it brings division to the church. Division simply is two different visions.
Does this mean that the youth ministry has to do everything the church does? No. It just means the youth ministry’s vision should be derived from the church’s vision and it should complement the church vision as well.
So what are some practical steps to doing this?
- Find out if your church has a specific vision.
Why does your local church exist? Do you know the reason? Is it clearly articulated?
Ask your pastor or senior ministry leader these questions. Ask them what he/she desires to see happen in the youth ministry. I believe God will honor you and the ministry you are stewarding when you make it your goal to see what your pastor or leader is seeing. Not only is there direction in that, but there is blessing in that. It is of the utmost importance to be open and honest with your pastor about the youth ministry and your leadership. Tell him/her your wins, your failures, your questions, your doubts, and your dreams. I do believe most pastors/leaders desire to see their teammates flourish in ministry.
- Celebrate with your youth ministry the wins and values of the church.
Who doesn’t like hearing what God is doing? Make it a priority to share testimonies of people’s lives changing or miracles of what God is doing throughout the church. This builds godly momentum and it points the teens to the bigger picture of the church. One day, the teens won’t be teens anymore. Are they able to transition into other ministries within your local body if they stay in the area?
Do you value what the leadership of the church values? If so, teach your leaders and the teens the values of your church.
- Partner the youth ministry with other ministries in the church.
Whether you get the teenagers to serve on the worship team, or in children’s ministry, or you plan into the youth ministry’s calendar to be a part of the church’s outreach event, make sure your youth ministry is connected! Not only are you showing Christ’s example of serving others, but you are giving the teenagers opportunities to grow in their God-given gifts as well.
I believe that God designed the local church and loves the local church to doing amazing things for His kingdom. In fact, I believe He wants to use local churches to spread His kingdom on the earth. But that may not happen if our local churches are trying to accomplish many different things with different sets of eyes.
Helen Keller said, “Worse than being blind would be to be able to see but not have any vision.” Worse than not having any vision in a local church is having division where people and/or ministries are separating themselves for all the wrong reasons.
Besides that’s not God’s heart anyways.
I’ll leave you with some more words from Paul:
“…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15b-16 ESV
Craig Campbell is the Lead Pastor of Faith Tabernacle Church, which is located in his hometown of Lockport, NY. He has been serving the local church for more than eleven years in different capacities such as youth ministry, worship ministry, young adult ministry, and more. He and his wife Jennie have four amazing kids whose names are Leland, Hudson, Adalyn, and Lillian.