This week I am at a conference called Forma, which is a yearly conference for Christian Educators for Youth & Children and Adults. I like to come to these conferences, but there sometimes is an annoying pattern I see in some of the Youth Ministry stuff that comes to show their wares at these conferences. It’s all about subscription boxes this year, and there are monthly kits you can sign up for that will “grow” your ministry or “get your students fired up for Jesus”. I have no illusions that these companies need to make money, however they bill themselves as the end all be all authority that we are supposed to follow and they will lead us to greater truth and faith. As I am reflecting on this weeks Gospel, I wonder if sometimes we do a lot of listening to the scribes, so much so that we can’t hear God.
I think when it comes to Youth Ministry, there is this idea that the products or programming need to be flashy and edgy in order to be attractive to students. Once I was working a retreat where a bunch of churches got together their youth groups for 3 days in the mountains. It was a great 3 days, but right in the middle of the 2nd day, I was informed by one group that they would be leaving for half of this day and returning that night because they were going to take their students sledding in the snow. Come to find out that they way they got their students there was to promise that their kids that they would go do something “exciting” for 1 of the days, separate from the rest of us. They left for the day and re-joined us that night. I do not know the leadership’s thought process on this, but it makes me wonder what kind of a precedent is set when students are enticed with prizes in order to engage in spirituality. How much dressing up of spirituality and the word of God do we as youth workers do, in order to get students in to our groups? And moreover, how many of these publishers, with the “authority” on youth work are helping us do it?
Now this is not a blanket criticism on all of the resources out there. In fact, I have a Youth Action Bible in the Youth Center, and sometimes it’s a useful tool. But, I think there are many pitfalls in working with youth, and I think one of the big ones is not discerning enough about where God is leading your ministry, and instead listening to what people are telling you that you need. What this Gospel is reminding me to do, is to seek out the voice of God amidst all the noise, and be prepared to be shocked at what He will reveal.