Back to Basics?

Has youth ministry become more complex than it needs to be?

Do we get swept away by the complexity of adolescent lives and feel the need to provide complex answers and solutions?

Have we become too focused on other ministries ideas and try to copy every idea for our own ministries?

Do we personally cram in way too much into our ministry schedule, our personal schedule, and our family schedule?

Have “blessings” become “curses” for us who are in ministry?

Are we in search for the newest or latest thing, but miss out on oldest yet, brightest truth?

Does it feel like we have “knock the ball out the park” every week to be successful?

Back to Basics? Does youth ministry really have to be so complex and stressful? Is it time to step back and take a fresh look at what we do and what matters most? Is it time to see that the best answers in youth ministry can be found in the most simple, yet powerful ideas and practices? For me, whenever ministry gets complex and overwhelming, I have to remind myself to come back to these foundational ministry values: 1) Students need Jesus, 2) they need my time, 3) they need my ears… Coming back to these basic principles is my compass in the storm of complexity…

1) Jesus Centered: Will we make a greater impact when we get back to basics by telling students who Jesus really is without having to make Him great. As Doug Fields said recently at SYMC, “We don’t have to make Jesus awesome, He already is”. Is it OK to strip away all the media and glitz and tell His story as it is? Do we somehow believe that His life and teachings are not enough on it’s own?

2) Take the Time: So many students have busy families and crave quality time. They need leaders and caring adults who can take the time to encourage them and build them up. Recently someone asked me, “what is the best way to minister to students?” My answer was simple: “Give them something the world cannot offer them… give them your time…”

3) Listen to Them: This might seem so simple that you might be tempted to think it’s pointless to read further. However, do we really listen to students? Are our conversations more about talking to them, than asking about them? If we want students to listen to our messages and insights, we must first listen to them and give them our ears first. This is so simple, but when we truly listen to students we get an insight to their heart, their hurts, and their dreams. From there, we can more effectively help them. How well are we truly listening?

There’s always more to do. There’s always someone to keep happy. There’s always a new idea or new program. When I get overwhelmed it’s important for me to come back to basics and concentrate on what matters most. When all is said and done, what one or two things should be your “back to basics compass” in the storms of complexity?

Phil <><


4 Responses to Back to Basics?

  1. Carl April 28, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    AMEN! It is my opinion that youth ministry is suffering because we keep trying to fix things that were never broken to begin with. We need to get back to relationships, back to loving students, and most importantly back to Jesus. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Phil Bell April 28, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Thanks for the kind words Carl. I agree. I think I am seeing that students are becoming more focused on authenticity and belonging rather than gimmicks and glitz…

  3. Brian Seidel April 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    Great thoughts. I think we do this with most things in life-make them way more complicated than they need to be. I definitely think we need to return to the basics, which I believe is what students really want anyway. God is the same now as He was when youth ministry started, why have we had to change so much to point students to that God? Just doesn’t make sense to me…

  4. youthworktalk April 30, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    Thanks Brian! Yes, I think life has a way of becoming too complex when it does not need to be. I often feel it is because of our innate default to try to take control of everything… when we do, we often overcomplicate what God intends to be straight forward.

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