Has Youth Ministry Become All Emotion And No Technique?

There is a fascinating interview with music legend Quincy Jones on the website Vulture. Quincy is turning 85 soon and, as I’ve witnessed older people do, he just lets loose on a variety of subjects.

Apart from him fluently using the phrase MF, Quincy shares some interesting insights on today’s music that, I think, are closely related to youth ministry. Here’s is a question and answer from that interview that sparked this post.

You’re talking about business not music, but, and I mean this respectfully, don’t some of your thoughts about music fall under the category of “back in my day”?

Musical principles exist, man. Musicians today can’t go all the way with the music because they haven’t done their homework with the left brain. Music is emotion and science. You don’t have to practice emotion because that comes naturally. Technique is different. If you can’t get your finger between three and four and seven and eight on a piano, you can’t play. You can only get so far without technique. People limit themselves musically, man. Do these musicians know tango? Macumba? Yoruba music? Samba? Bossa nova? Salsa? Cha-cha? – Quincy Jones

Music and Ministry

These two things have a lot in common. They are both emotional and they both require skill. As I pose in the title, I think we have leaned way further to the emotional side of youth ministry and forgotten some of the skill.

Most of the youth ministry shots you see on Instagram are meant to evoke emotion or show the emotion of a youth ministry. Maybe it’s the worship service, the altar time, the game time, and it they show you fun, laughter, tears and joy. None of this is wrong, but you don’t see “skill” shots on Instagram.

I don’t see youth ministry posts of kids reading their bible, sharing their faith, and other than summer missions trips, kids serving.  I’m guilty of this as well, although I try to show the big picture though my Facebook Live streams of the big picture. I show students leading, students praying, students doing ministry.

I get it, fun shots sell the youth ministry. Look! We’re fun! And teenagers need fun, and need fun, right brain creative youth workers, but they also need left brain skill builder who can build long term follower of Jesus through a systematic approach. All fun and no skill isn’t youth ministry, it’s a club.

Quincy says it right, “You can only get so far without technique.” Emotions will only go so far in a youth ministry, that’s why youth worker have to develop the skills and, yes, even techniques of making disciples. Techniques sounds like a word that could suck all the emotion out of the room, but there is a technique to good youth meetings, good small groups, and good one on one discipleship.

Emotions or emotionalism will only lead a kid so far in their relationship with Christ (camp anyone?). That’s why the technique of training a kid to have a consistent devotion time is critical to that kids sustained faith in Christ.

Let’s look to one more question from the interview with Quincy Jones

What would account for the songs being less good than they used to be?The mentality of the people making the music. Producers now are ignoring all the musical principles of the previous generations. It’s a joke. That’s not the way it works: You’re supposed to use everything from the past. If you know where you come from, it’s easier to get where you’re going. You need to understand music to touch people and become the soundtrack to their lives.

Look To The Past

Wow! Read this again, but think youth ministry not music and you get the picture. Is youth ministry less good than it used to be? That;s pretty subject. The older you get the past doesn’t look so bad.

I was once young and thought we needed to throw out the hymn book or anything that reeked of the “old” but, as Quincy says, “that’s not how it works”.

I am not favoring teaching hymns to our kids, but, no matter what age youth worker you are, you should look to the past because the new and the now is passing before your very eyes.

There are cycles, fads, and trends. What you think is the model for youth ministry today is morphing right under your nose.

When I say look to the past, I’m not talking about past youth ministry ideas, although some may work (flannel graphs for days, am I right?), I’m talking about biblical principles that never change. The Bible shows us the pattern or the technique of following Jesus and the discipleship of others,; and while the youth ministry landscape continues to change, the truth of God’s word remains the same.

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16

Emotional youth ministries may be exciting and even growing, but without good disciple making skills and  technique, those youth ministries are a mile wide and an inch deep.

On the other hand, a youth ministry with all technique and no emotion robs kids of the value of expression and robs God from showing Himself strong within the students to cry out, leap for joy and dance for before their King.

Balance is the key, and I think that’s what Quincy was getting at. Music like ministry can be canned, one note, sugar coated, cheap rip offs of the real thing. Let’s make sure both milk and meat are at the table when students arrive to our youth groups and at least let them lean into what they need that night, but to have one and not the other is a spiritual dietary crime.

If you’re lookin for some discipleship resources that are filled with emotion and technique, feel free to check out my store. 

Remember, even Sponge Bob understands that there’s value in technique when blowing a bubble

Disciples Must Be Prepared To Hear Hard Things

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” John 6:60

Growing up is hard. When we are babies we hear the word no many times,

No! Don’t touch that

No! Get that out of your mouth

No! Get off there.

These no’s we here are often to keep us from hurting ourselves. We cry, pout and get angry whomever has denied us our pleasure.

When we are young teenagers, we continue to hear the word no

No! You can’t go out with those friends

No! You can’t see that movie

No! You can’t have a raise in you allowance.

More hard things to hear. Disappointment, outrage, injustice follow.

Then we become adults. A new freedom We can do what we want. Go wherever we want to go. The words “no you can’t…” has change to

You have to study longer and harder to get that degree

You have to work harder to get that promotion

You have to love deeper to get/keep that relationship

We move from the word no to meeting expectations. As Christians, the teaching get’s harder still,

Love your enemy

Give to those who have nothing

Accept those who are not like you

Jesus had just spent the last few minutes talking to His disciple about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Jesus spoke of being the bread of life to the world. In this moment, it was too much.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. John 6:66

This teaching was too far of a stretch for them.

I am sure Nathaniel did not mind hear that he would see angels ascending and descending when Jesus invited Him to follow.

I am sure Peter did not mind hear that his new name meant rock or that he as invited to walk on water.

I am sure Jame and John were excited to learn that they would sit with Jesus in heaven.

Christians love to hear all that God will do for them, but when Jesus teaches a hard thing, we bow out heads and sulk at the notion that we must do something we do not want to do.

Nathaniel, Peter, James and John stuck around. In response to Jesus’ teaching they said,

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68,69

What will you do the next time Jesus tells you a hard thing? Will you walk away in discouragement or step up and believe. Where else have you to go?

 

 

Disciples Must Be Ready For The Big Question

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. John 6: 5,6

Can you imagine Philip. I can see his eyes get real big at Jesus asking Him this question. Disciple were there to learn and to serve their masters, but this request must have sent his head spinning. He does’t want to disappoint Jesus.

No follower of Jesus I know, wants to disappoint Jesus, it just sort of happens. As follower of Christ we must always be read for that question which makes our eyes wide and sends our hearts into our throats.

Jesus will ask us to do the impossible. He will ask us to do something so far beyond us we cannot comprehend it.

We should do this with our students. We should challenge them with a “How are we going to do this..” knowing full well we plan to participate in the success of whatever idea they may come up with.

At this time I have challenge our students to give $200 towards supporting missionaries. I have given them three weeks to come up with this. This is a big goal for our group because they small and many of them do not work. But I have offered them some incentive.

I told them, “if you raise the $200 in three weeks I will bleach my hair blonde.” So, yes, this will happen if they reach their goal. What they do not know is that I want it to happen, so I am putting in $10 a week to help make it happen. That will be $30 towards the goal and they will need only $170.

Jesus did not want his disciples to fail, he wanted the people to be fed but he also want his disciples think in terms of faith and how they would join that faith with him to make it happen. Kids will bring their loaves and fishes and God will multiply it.

Just like Jesus was testing the faith of his disciples we also must test the faith of those we serve with big ideas and big challenges.

Disciples Order Off The Secret Menu

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”  John 4:31-33

When you go to a fast-food place, you stand and look up at the menu to order, but did you know that many restaurants have what is called a “secret” menu. These are items you cannot see, but can order them if you know what to ask for.

For example,

Arby’s has the meat mountain, a sandwich made with all the kinds of meats they serve.

McDonald’s has the Land, Sea and Air burger. This is a sandwhich with chicken, fish, and meat on it.

Sonics Purple Sprite is a mixing of  lemonade, Powerade, and Cranberry juice.

When the disciples come back, they were concerned that Jesus had not eaten anything. Maybe Jesus had been fasting or simply ministering so much he had forgone eating. Jesus then described what was “feeding him”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

Jesus was consumed with reaching those who had not been reached, like this Samaritan woman. Jesus was eating off the secret menu that the Pharisees and the disciples did not know was available to them.

As believers, we’re trained to “order off the menu”. We ask for a double portion of God’s blessing, large faith fries and a healing shake. When was the last time you ordered off the secret menu?

Lord, help us do your will and finish your work

 

 

 

 

Disciples Must Change Their Expectations

 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. John 1:46

Nathaniel was the first critic of Christ. He judged him because of where he was from. He didn’t think anything good could come from a bad place.

Disciples have to learn this principle early or they’re going to be a mess.

God brings

light from darkness

beauty from ashes

riches from poverty

life from death

identify from wandering

All of these things the disciples discovered three years later. Some things have to be caught rather than taught.

Those whom God has brought from hard places understand. Those who think  it’s just a good idea to follow Jesus or who do not sense their own poverty of spirit and embrace humility will alway think things should go a certain way (mostly their way). Be  prepared for disappointment.

Jesus showed his disciples grace in the learning process as we should show those students whom we disciple. They won’t understand until they are in the the throes of watching God bring about transformation.

Let’s act like good thing coming from bad places is normal and pray our students will catch on.

 

 

Disciples Share What They Learn

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:40-42

What was the first thing you did after coming to Christ? Join a class? Start going to church? Neither of those are bad, but that wasn’t the first thing Andrew did. The first thing Andrew did was tell his brother. He shared what he had found.

How quickly this went

Evangelism: “There goes the Lamb of God”

Discipleship: “Where are you staying”

Evangelism: “We have found the Messiah

Discipleship: And he brought him to Jesus.

I think there are way to many levels between us and Jesus. Things we think we must do first before becoming “real” followers. We tell young people, directly or indirectly, you’re not ready for X. So, to get them ready,  we build in so many layers to get them “ready” that I think we may actually be keeping kids from Jesus.

Evangelism and Discipelship are not not about being better educated, they’re about Spirit initiative. Andrews actions were motivated by an inward change. He was excited about what he had heard and then shared it.

I want kids to grow, but not at the expense of them not acting on what the Spirit initiates them to do. No, we cannot nor would we, intentionally, stop them from obeying the Spirit, but sometimes we send a subtle message that they’re  not ready to share their faith.

Let’s take away every hinderance from a young person, or anyone else, who experiences Jesus Christ. Let’s tell them, “Go and share what you’ve learned with someone you care about!”

Disciples Ask The Right Questions

“So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.” John 1:39

John said it, “There goes the Lamb of God.” John was Jesus’ cousin and he knew Jesus was the Messiah. John wasn’t trying to amass a follower-ship, he was trying to point people to Jesus.

His two disciples heard John glorify God and, like smart disciples, followed Jesus. They asked Jesus, “Where are you staying? ” Jesus said, “Come and see.”

I love that Jesus did not give them an address or say meet me at such at such synagogue. Jesus said, Come and see. But the disciples asked the right question, “Jesus “where can I find you?

Where can we find Jesus today? Find the poor, the lonely, the tires, the weak, and the unloved and you will find Jesus.

The journey to becoming a follower of Jesus starts with asking the right question. Jesus, where are you staying? How do I get into your presence? How can I learn from you?

Jesus still answers this question the same way today, “Come and see.”