The Following is a Guest Post by Kyle Duncan, Assistant Director of YouthHOPE, and a partner with The Way. Make sure to check out YouthHOPE, and all of our partners, here.
I grew up in a church. It was a place where young people were shifted to some far corridor to participate in “Wee Worship” or “Junior Church” while the adults sat through “Big Church.” I never missed Sunday School and had more than one decidedly un-cool youth minister. I can attribute much of my early spiritual formation to one of those “t-shirt-tucked-into-jeans-with-no-belt” mentors. His investment in me led to my pursuit of ministry as a vocation. Well, him and some Thursday night message at a summer youth conference. God was there too.
After enrolling myself in college to prepare for ministry, I was blessed to get the opportunity to study the Word in an in-depth kind of way. I was surprised to find no mention of “youth ministers” anywhere in the Scriptures. In fact, I soon discovered that there seemed to be only one group set apart to minister to young people: their parents. Think Deuteronomy 6:4-7:“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children.” And that got me thinking: Did my parents let me down? Did they forfeit their God-given responsibility to some corn-fed 20-something who drives a Jeep and listens to The Newsboys?
I found myself harboring this great bitterness toward all things related to youth ministry. I’d take advantage of every chance I could get to extol the virtues of Godly parenting and branding the youth ministry enterprise as cut-rate babysitting. Youth ministers were scum who enabled the perpetuation of a never-ending cycle of kidulthood and indulgence. “Wii Worship” even.
Then something happened. God opened doors of opportunities for me to serve, coincidentally perhaps, alongside young people. I began to hear stories. I went to my college’s ministry job fair and found a booth where two high school students were trying to find someone to come and be their youth minister. They hadn’t had one for at least two years. After getting married, God’s call on my family’s life took us to England. It was there that I met four sisters who regularly came to our church, having just been dropped off by their dad (who never came). I started working with young people in schools and was gripped by the faith of these youths whose belief was staunchly opposed by their atheist teachers.
God brought about a shift in my perception. I was humbled by what I was experiencing. While I was busy throwing the baby out with the bathwater, students all over the world were without mentor, young people were being pushed away by their parents, and kids were going to bed discouraged and hungry.
We definitely need to equip parents to do the Deuteronomy 6 business. Meanwhile, we also have a responsibility as the Church to pass on our faith to the next generation. Check out Psalm 71:17-18 on this one.
Since joining YouthHOPE I’ve been overwhelmed by the way God is using us to meet the needs of young people all over the world. I sheepishly look back at my immature and angst-driven perspective on what God’s preferred method of reaching youths was. We at YouthHOPE are keen to be proactive in raising up leaders to be change agents in the lives of young people and their communities. Surely, the holistic needs facing youth today being met by the Church head-on is one issue we can all agree on.