- Neo-Youth Ministry Series Introduction
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 1: “Youth”
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 2: “Ministry”
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 3: The Youth Minister
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 4: The Youth Minister as Theologian
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 5: The Youth Minister as Pastor
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 6: Youth Minister as Spiritual Director
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 7: The Youth Minister as Prophet
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 8: The Youth Minister as Youth Advocate
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 9: The Youth Minister as Interpreter and Synthesizer
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: Education and Teaching
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: The End of Bait and Switch
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: Local and Contextual
Continuing to examine the term youth ministry, we now turn to the word ministry. This will probably be a fairly brief post, since I don’t have any real training in Greek.
My interest in the term ministry is that it appears that in popular usage it is taken to mean a specific Christian program or institution. You hear the term used all the time like this. At church you probably hear something along the lines of “there is an exciting new ministry being started in order to serve the poor in our community” (or anything else, just fill in the blank). Or, on Christian radio you will hear pleas to “support this ministry” (i.e. radio show).
The problem I find is that this usage of the term ministry trains us to think in terms of programs or institutions when we hear the word. For us, this means that in popular usage the term youth ministry automatically conjures up thoughts of programs and institutions meant to minister to young people. This severely limits the ability to be creative and innovative in ministry if the assumption we are operating out of is that youth ministry is by definition a program or institution.
In the Greek, the word diakonia is the one we usually translate as ministry in the New Testament. However, this word can also be translated as service. Whenever people are serving, they are doing ministry, whether or not that service is attached to a particular program or institution.
What if when we thought of youth ministry we thought of any way an individual or a church serves adolescents rather than programs for adolescents? Using the new definition, youth ministry can happen outside of the normal confines of a program designed for a group of adolescents. When an elderly lady in the church knits a blanket for one of the girls in the church who is in college, she is doing youth ministry. Parents who take time out of their day to read scripture and pray with their children are doing youth ministry. The lady who prays for the teenagers in the church without anyone knowing is doing youth ministry. Adults who clean up after the junior high students who forget to throw away their plates after a pot-luck are doing youth ministry. None of these requires a program, but they are all youth ministry.
When we begin to take a more organic view of the word ministry, a whole new world of opportunities for youth ministry opens up free of the burdens or limitations of programs or institutions. With such an understanding we have the necessary foundation for being truly creative and innovative as we move forward with a Neo-Youth Ministry. Or perhaps to put it in more theologically correct terms, such a definition of ministry can give “ears to hear” what God might be speaking to us in regard to youth ministry in the 21st century.
[If anyone with experience in the biblical languages comes across this post feel free to add to or correct my assumptions about the usage of the word ministry.]