Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Youth Ministry Rant-Ministers or Salespersons?

Do you ever feel like more of a salesperson and less like someone in youth ministry? If you're like me, you went into ministry to see lives changed for the better; to see students develop a passion for God, to see people change the world because God had changed them. But now it doesn't look anything like that. It's time for the next big event that will change the lives of your students and rather than signing them up at warp speed, you find yourself making phone calls and emails confirming that they are coming and that they have their money and forms filled out.

I've spent nine of the last eleven years doing full time youth ministry at two different churches. In the middle, though, I had a two-year stint as an insurance salesman...uh, I mean...agent. While the pay was good and showed promise of even better pay, this was one of the most difficult jobs of my life. Life insurance was our company's bread and butter. And every agent in the company understood the value of life insurance. The problem was convincing our clients that they needed life insurance and helping them realize that need so they would by it. So once you had a meeting with the client, you set up a follow-up meeting, then discuss all the reasons they need it and encourage them to buy it. Four years after leaving that job, I feel like I'm doing the same thing all over again...this time in ministry.

While it may not be true, it certainly feels like I'm trying to convince students why they need to be a part of our program. I'm trying to convince parents why they need to be active in our program. It's phone calls and emails. It's not about relationships, but about advertising. We are "selling" a deeper relationship with God at little or no cost and yet, we still have to persuade people as to why this is better than any of the dozens of other activities they can be involved in.

Maybe it's because we've become a society of consumers. Maybe it's because band camp, soccer camp, and church camp, all come with a price tag. I've read so many posts about the perils of program-based youth ministry. And yes, the program should not be our end goal. But we have to have structure and consistency to build relationships. We need events to enrich faith and provide opportunities for teaching. So why do I feel like my job as a youth minister is to peddle the youth program and its activities? I'm not sure but it's frustrating. If you have any answers, I covet your thoughts.

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