When most people think of youth ministry there often a few things that come to mind: pizza, lock-ins, or messy games. On the surface many youth ministries and their events often look like a party, but when you dive below the surface these ministries are having an impact. It is in the midst of sleep deprivation and $5 pizza that student's lives are being radically changed.
This week I am the guest speaker at the New Mexico District Church of the Nazarene's teen camp at Bonita Park in Capitan, New Mexico. I have had the opportunity to share meals, worship and pray with youth pastors and students from across New Mexico and Texas. If I didn't stand up for youth ministries enough before; after this camp I will be. During my time at this camp I have heard story after story from students about their pain, their insecurities and their loneliness.
Camp is the perfect opportunity for students to let their guard down. It is in this brokenness that students reveal their real selves. Not the person they portray through Facebook statuses or in Instagram pictures, but the real person. The real person that lies behind the thick walls they've built up to protect themselves from being hurt. Hurt by a society that tells them that if they don't look a certain way, talk a certain way or dress a certain way then they are worthless.
It is in the midst of a safe environment, such as youth group, that students are able to see their worth. That they are so loved by God that they are worth Jesus to God. That John 3:16 isn't just something people put up on a sign at sporting events, but is an example of our value in Christ.
This is the kind of environment that churches need to strive for in their youth ministries. An environment where students feel accepted; unconditionally. Accepted as being part of the “church of today” just as much as any other member of a church. Accepted in such a way that they are welcomed and never seen as a burden.
Creating this kind of environment come at a cost. A stray dodge-ball may be introduced to a window. The entire contents of a 2 liter bottle of Pepsi may end up on the carpet of the fellowship hall. There may or may not be an expensive towing bill after the church van breaks down on the way to a mission trip. It is in this environment where the cost of these incidents, while as inconvenient as they may be, are worth every penny when even a single student surrenders their life to Christ.
Matthew Fry is the youth pastor for Whitesville Students in Crawfordsville, IN. He enjoys running, french fries and spending time with his wife and daughter (not necessarily in that order). You can check out his blog at ForTheSole.com.
ONLY ONE MORE DAY OF #CHURCHCHATTER. VISIT TOMORROW TO HEAR FROM RYAN J. PUGH AND GET A GLIMPSE INTO HIS NEW BOOK "THE MONEY EXPERIMENT."