A Youth Minister’s Rant…

What is knowledge if we cannot apply it?


This has been a question I have been asking myself a lot since I have been in college. I go to a very religious school, and spend all my time in the theology department with a lot of very intelligent people. But these people come off very arrogant to the rest of the school. There is the cliche that Biblical Studies majors are a bunch of arrogant jerks. Why is that? Because they sit around talking doctrine and theology all day and don’t seem to be very nice when it comes to the practical matters of life. Because when they see someone stumble, they’re on their case. Because they are extra judgmental. This, to me, is a problem. (especially since I know a lot of BS majors that are sweethearts.)

A brother of mine who is a BS major told me that he thought youth ministry majors need to switch to BS, a “real major”. Youth ministers today prove to be idiots time and time again because they don’t have enough knowledge about the Bible to minister to their youth, and don’t know theology and doctrine like they should. If they want to be effective in ministry, they need to be as intelligent as possible in the area of the Bible. As true as this is, this proves to me how arrogant BS majors can be.

Don’t get me wrong, I COMPLETELY agree that if you are in ministry, you need to understand the Bible and try to gain as much knowledge as possible. But my thing is, what is the point if you have all this knowledge but can’t apply it? I know a guy who when he talks to teenagers, all he comes off as is brilliant…and over their heads. He cannot relate to them as teenagers because he was never taught how. Now this is where I defend the youth ministry program–the program at SBU teaches you how to relate to teenagers, gives you Adolescent Development class so you can learn where teenagers are cognitively/spiritually/physically/etc, and also provides a group of others going into the same field who can provide advice and such.

But my purpose isn’t to defend the youthmin department. No, I want to give you guys two verses that I have found to be true since being in ministry:

1 Corinthians 8: “Knowlege makes arrogant, but love edifies.” (NIV: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”)

How can we minister with just knowledge? It takes more. If we are just spitting out all of our knowledge, how is that going to reach them? It takes more.
(In all fairness, the chapter context discusses food sacrificed to idols, but I think this applies to all things if you read the verses to follow. Plus, it’s basic human truth.)

1 Corinthians 9:19-22: For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.

Dr. Malone LOVES talking about the Indigenous Church–how if we are going to reach people, WE need to reach them at THEIR level. That means learning to talk like them, act like them, and learning about their culture and environment. Teens have their own culture, and honestly you have to learn how to relate to that. It isn’t something that comes naturally.

So in summary of this rant… Remember that knowledge isn’t everything. It’s important, yes. But how are you going to reach people if you can’t relate to them? Having knowledge creates a separation between you and that person, it doesn’t bring you closer. So learn how to balance book knowledge with practical knowledge.

(and don’t put down youth ministry majors!)

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