How to Avoid Youth Ministry Blasphemy
I was recently sitting with one of my high school students, chatting about her self-harming and her depression. She was broken over the fact that she kept cutting every time she felt she had a “bad day” and felt nothing at the end of it. Without going into too much detail, I could see so clearly from the outside all the things that needed to change for her to find freedom and to experience joy, happiness, and life again. I wanted to tell her all the things that she could do differently, and each way she needed to change, and the false beliefs she was clinging to. But it’s not so obvious when you’re the one in the middle of it, slugging it out with depression in your face every day.
As much as I wanted to just pick her up out of her situation, fix all her problems, and then place her back down in a perfectly fixed situation, I knew that life doesn’t work that way…and that’s a good thing. For me to fix all her issues would negate the process the Lord uses to bring us along on the path of life, teaching us to follow and trust Him. If she was allowed to escape each difficult situation she ever faced, then she wouldn’t need to look to Jesus as her Savior or to the Holy Spirit as her Comforter and Helper.
And then the real truth sank in…I was secretly wanting to be those things for her; I was wanting to be her helper, her comforter, and her savior. And that thought scared me. It scared me because it was so subtle that I almost didn’t notice it. I really wanted her to find help – which is a good thing – but not only that, I wanted to be the provider of the help, myself – which is a subtle form of youth ministry blasphemy.
Youth ministry blasphemy happens when we, as youth workers, try to take God’s place in fixing the problems and issues that students face, rather than pointing our students to God for that help. We can pray for our students, counsel our students, and provide helpful resources – and we should – but when we begin to take that on ourselves, we are committing the subtle sin of youth ministry blasphemy.
So how do we avoid youth ministry blasphemy when it is so easy to slip into?
- Prayer. We must first maintain regular prayer for our students and their situations. Anytime a student comes to us for guidance, help, or just comfort, we need to remember that it is ultimately God who will provide these things. Yes, He may provide it through us, but He is the Provider. So we need to look to Him first. A good habit to be in is to never let a student leave you without praying for them – right then and there!
- Culture creation. We must not only train our volunteers how to point students to God, but we must regularly have the conversation about pointing students to God for salvation, comfort, and power. It is one thing for the leader to know this, but until it is part of the culture, the subtle deception of youth ministry blasphemy can creep to our other leaders. Try connecting with at least one or two leaders every single week and seeing what situations they are leading students through. And as you talk with them, always be sure to point them – and their students – to God for all their comfort, wisdom, and power.
- Celebration. Finally, we must never forget to celebrate all the wins – big and small – that happen when God comes through for a student who was looking to Him for salvation, comfort, and/or power. Sometimes, it takes a party for it to sink in with a student that God always comes through for them. So if you notice a win, give God the praise and throw a party!
Frequently drinking specialty coffee or eating Doritos’ Locos tacos, Brant Cole is often mistaken for just another student. With his wife Christine, he has been in youth ministry since 2010. Gifted in relational connections and transformational preaching, Brant finds it to be one of the highest privileges to do ministry with and to students. To him, student ministry is extremely important because students are not just the church of tomorrow; they are the church of today. Brant has his M.A. in Pastoral Studies and Congregational Leadership from Moody Theological Seminary, and currently serves as Youth Pastor at WALLOON LAKE COMMUNITY CHURCH in Walloon Lake, Michigan. You can connect with Brant on FACEBOOK and learn more about his church’s youth ministry on FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.