The above quote is from Greg Fess on his blog which you can find here. Stop reading this and go there and read his post about youth ministry. Go now....I'll wait.
I stumbled upon Greg's thoughts from Marko's post asking the question - "What will youth ministry look like in 50 years?" (You should also go to Marko's post and follow the links to the other writers. It is some amazing stuff. Convicting and encouraging thoughts. I love that!)
Anyway - I love that quote - "What you win them with is what you win them to!"
It has been especially striking for me this week. I have had some conversations with our students as well as some parents about concerns they have about our Jr. High gathering - various things from not enough game/fun time to not connecting with the leaders and/or not feeling like they are growing. I've also had students and parents share the opposite - excited that their students feel like they can invite friends, excited about what they are experiencing and learning, making it a priority in their week.
As a ministry team we try to make all of our gatherings contain these three characteristic (there are many more but these are our top three right now) - Christ-centered, passionate, relational.
Because there isn't a "typical" teenager I don't imagine we will ever find a mix that engages all the kids every week. That is why our ministry has to look beyond our programs. It isn't about our programs -it is about finding ways to engage kids with maturing adults to help them grow in their relationship with Christ so that when all of the games, messages, worship, small groups, mission trips, lock-ins and their time in our youth ministry is over - they have a faith that will last, persevere, and meet the challenges of their journey ahead. And we need to be a church that will embrace and nurture them - regardless of whether they show up on Wednesday, Sunday, after they graduate, after they have made a huge mistake, after, after, after....again, and again, and again.
As I think about the comments I have heard this week and I ponder our gatherings and the impact I hope they have it makes me wonder......what are we winning our students with...and therefore...what are we winning our students to?
I also remember that God is working through our imperfection. That ultimately His Spirit will be the force behind our student's faith....and we are a leaky, imperfect, dinged up conduit....and what a cool place that is for me to be - and there isn't anywhere else I'd rather be. Praise, God.