“You’re not like most Youth Pastors.” They said to me half-jokingly. I was sitting at the lunch table with my two key youth volunteers as we were making plans for our first summer camp together. These two had been running the youth ministry at our small church for the last couple of years. I had recently been hired to take over and I asked them if they would stay on as volunteers. They agreed.
The days and weeks ahead were filled with conversations about youth ministry and philosophy and the “why” behind our programs. We got to know each other and we did our best to figure out youth ministry at our church together. “What do you mean?” I asked curiously. “Well,” they said, “Most youth pastors want to preach every lesson at camp and always be the person up front. But you are always giving stuff like that away.”
What these two, and our larger team now, has come to realize is that my desire as the Pastor of our group is not to be the one up-front and leading everything all the time. Instead my desire is to be the one equipping other leaders to the be all that God has created them to be for the sake of the students we are serving. If that is a teacher or a preacher, great. It may be that the volunteer wants to be a game leader, small group leader, worship leader, behind the scenes set-up person, prayer person, someone who brings the donuts or otherwise. Whatever gift God has given them to do, I see my job is to make sure they can do it and do it well. This is born out of specific philosophy of ministry. It is one of equipping the saints.
Last week I began a series about my ministry philosophy. I started with listening. This week I move to equipping leaders. Equipping leaders is a key component to my ministry philosophy.
Ephesians 4:11-16 says this:
He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does its part.
The vision for the church here is of a body with lots of different body parts performing lots of functions. As each part performs its function, the body grows and matures with Christ as the head. In my ministry, part of my job, as a Pastor at a local church, is to facilitate this. I see what I do in Youth Ministry as not just loving and leading young people. That is a big and important part of it. But it is actually more than that.
My Youth Ministry is a training ground for adults and students to discover their God-given gifts and use those gifts in service to the church. This is why I give a lot of time and attention to building my volunteer ministry team. I have been at my current church for almost two years now. My top priority when I was hired was to recruit, build community with and disciple a group of adult volunteers from the church who would serve as Youth Leaders. This “Youth Leader Team” is made up of people who are passionate about students and families. They are people who are great preachers and teachers and worship leaders and small group leaders. They have also become a group of friends, people who love and support and pray for one another throughout the week. We are even going on a weekend retreat together this summer!
Some people might look at that and say, “Well, that’s not youth ministry! There are no students around.” But that is where an “equipping leaders” philosophy may differ from a more traditional ministry philosophy where the Pastor is to be the primary worker in the ministry. My ministry is to my volunteer leaders. They are not a means to the end of “accomplishing” ministry. They are my ministry. As they are equipped they will be able to grow and thrive by using their gifts. As they are equipped they will build up the Church.
How are you equipping leaders this week in your own ministry? In your own church? In your own family? In your own vocation?