Update: This post was nominated for YouthMin.Org’s “Top Youth Ministry Blog Post of 2011.” Unfortunately, I didn’t even find out about the contest until February, and didn’t have time to “campaign.” Ha! But apparently some people were blessed by it, and voted for it. Thanks!
When we think of barriers in youth ministry, we automatically think of…what? Time? Money? Parents? ;)
But have you ever thought of how YOU are contributing to these barriers? And what barriers are you setting up yourself?
So you’re a few decades older than the students. Or maybe you’re only a few years older than the students. Age is nothing but a number, right? Age indeed puts up a barrier, but perhaps we make a bigger deal out of it than it really is. I know, as a very young minister myself, that I often struggle with, “How am I going to be a cool mentor and an authoritative adult at the same time?” One of my biggest pet peeves is ministers or adults who call teenagers “kids”. Teenagers don’t need another person calling them a kid. They want to be seen as adults, want to be seen as more mature, and “kids” degrades them. It also sets up the barrier of “I’m soooo much more older than you.” Another way you can set this barrier is talking about events in your life as if they were SUPER long ago. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. But if you talk about events as if you are 137 years old, you are probably going to lose your rapport with the teen.
This seems pretty obvious. Yet I’m not necessarily talking about the sin you currently struggle with; I’m talking about the sinful life you once lead. Sometimes we glorify our sin so much, that people can’t relate to us. It’s good to talk about how you were completely different before we met Christ. Yet sometimes in the midst we separate ourselves from our audience in the process. And not just our sin, but our whole testimony. I’ll give an example: Last summer I worked at a church in the suburbs. Most of the teens I worked with had nice houses, nice cars when they turned 16, had Christian families, and lived pretty nice lives (on the outside, of course. they still had problems). So I came in, and from the bat presented my testimony–this girl from the hood, grew up very poor, committed every sin possible. Was that wrong? No. Yet I dwelled on my past, I brought it up a lot, and created a gap between my girls and I. I made myself un-relateable. I have fought hard and God has done a great work in me, so that I don’t HAVE to think about who I once was anymore. This race is about pressing forward, not running backwards. I have seen a lot of other leaders at conferences and such make this same mistake.
If we have a second job, or also are going to school, or have a family, sometimes we make it seem like we are completely busy all the time. Even if we are, if we convey that the wrong way to teens, they might think that we are too busy to help them. They might think that they are not worth our time, so if they really do have a big problem they need help with, they might hesitate to come to us. After all, we are really busy, right? So there is this barrier of “I have too much to do” that turns into teens finishing off your statement with “to help me”.
What are some other barriers that you put up unintentionally? I”m guilty of all three of these (not that I’m trying to glorify it!)