The pursuit of celebrity, in youth ministry and church, is killing our Christian influence with teens and the rest of the world. Students don’t want another rock star, they want a servant who shows them how to be like Jesus. Let’s start undoing this by looking at how to integrate more humility into our lives and ministries.
Jesus was not a celebrity.
He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. Isaiah 52:1
30,000 people were at Elvis’s funeral. Michael Jackson had 17,500 people in attendance but the funeral drew over 2.5 viewers. Jesus died with three people in attendance and all his closest friends were hiding.
With the recent news of Carl Lentz, former pastor of Hillsong NYC, falling from grace, why do youth ministries still pursue celebrity Christianity? Because it sells. Many teens want a faith that’s cool, stylish and that people like. The only problem with any of that is that it’s not real Christianity.
Real Christianity, and the antidote to celebrity, is humility and youth ministries must find a way to integrate it into their services to counteract the need to be famous or known.
Humility begins with the youth pastor no having to be a celebrity or superstar. If you want to be humble, start by giving away the ministry, stop being the center of attention, share the spotlight. The more you do everything the more prideful you become the more you begin to think that the youth ministry cannot live without you.
One time, I washed the feet of my volunteers at a staff meeting because I wanted to show them that I was there to serve not to be served. This is not a humble brag, it was an action I took because I knew the pride in my own heart had to die and what better way than to wash some smelly feet.
Use worship as an opportunity for humility not technology. We can become so proud of our worship team, the videos, the slides or the lights that we forget it’s not about them. It’s not about how well the set goes it’s how students are challenged to humble themselves before God. Find ways to ask kids to kneel, bow, be silent and reflect on God’s goodness. Help them change their posture from disengaged to humble by asking them to, physically, open their hands to receive God’s grace or to kneel at their chair as a symbol of reverence.
Use the offering as a time of humility. Give away an offering a week to missions or a local charity or to a student in need. Encourage kids to give not out of guilt but out of responsibility to serve others.
Use your preaching time to glorify God rather than yourself or the youth ministry. Yes, youth pastor’s are often the low man on the staff totem poll but they can reach iconic status with students if they serve at their church long enough. And being the low man or woman can feed the “When is it my turn to shine” ego.
I’m not saying you can’t talk about yourself, but give Jesus a little more time and credit. Review your message and find ways to lift Jesus higher and make yourself a little lower.
Use your closing time to offer humility. Some youth pastors call this the altar call other call it a response time, either way it’s an opportunity to call teens to lay down themselves and pick up Jesus’ way of living. There are some youth pastors who think students don’t want this, it makes kids feel awkward. You mean more awkward than thinking they are the center of the universe?
Students want authenticity not hype. Call your students to lay their hearts before God and let Him do the humbling. Life change will take care of itself.
The Apostle Paul and Barnabas had to resist celebrity,
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Acts 14:11
What an opportunity. They could have capitalized on this kind of praise and justify it by saying, “Well, if this is what the people need, we can build strong relationships with them and break the bad news to them later.” Rather, they chose humility over celebrity.
“Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.” Acts 14:15
Use the closing time of your service for prayer. Let students pray for each other or set up prayer stations where students can pray for the needs of the church, the community, the city, the state, the country and the world.
If you need a resource that helps students embrace humility, I have a resource called Humility Prayer Stations.
As Tim Keller puts it, in his book Reasons For God, (and I paraphrase) “Christians are known for being fanatical about the end of the world, evangelism and politics, but what if they were fanatical about humility?”
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we are not in control. It humbled you and your youth ministry, It made you re-think what it means to make disciples. Maybe you should be more thankful for 2020 than you are, it’s done you a service. Take the the humble moments you experienced this past year and sprinkle them through out your ministry every time you meet.