Five Questions with Timothy Eldred

Read this brief article first: Five Questions with Timothy Eldred | Youth Specialties. Then read my reaction and commentary.

I just read this article on YS and was hit with this statement: “Never do anything for a young person they can learn to do for themselves, and young people can make the same commitment to follow Jesus Christ as an adult.”

I am in full agreement with the second part of Eldred’s statement, but the first has me scratching my head a bit. I find it intriguing, but I also am asking myself if this is true the way that he and Endeavor (Eldred’s organization in Michigan) believe this so profoundly and if it has been working for them for the last 129 years, then why haven’t I come across the concept before? Why wasn’t this a part of any of my youth ministry classes in college? Why have I not tried this approach? It’s not revolutionary. It’s merely the logical end of the idea of integrating student leadership into a youth ministry. Instead of mini-leaders or assistants, the students become the primary leaders of regular programming, both upfront and behind the scenes.

I lied to you a second ago. I said that this is not revolutionary. It is. It is the logical end of the student leadership concept, but it is terrifyingly revolutionary. I am reminded of the late great Mike Yaconelli and his concept of messy spirituality (the concept within the book of that title which you need to read if you haven’t already). Placing this amount of responsibility and authority in the hands of high school students, and dare I think it – middle school students(!), would be messy indeed!

If this model of ministry is to be embraced, then the church (or organization) must be committed to it’s success from the onset as success may not be quick or apparent as adults adjust to their new support roles and students adjust to being the leaders. Students leading worship, Bible studies, giving messages, etc will be unpolished and must be given encouragement, support, and freedom to fail. They may say the wrong thing, misinterpret a text, use a terrible illustration, be awkward, and much more.

I think that those drawbacks (not risks, as they are sure to happen) are worth the exploration of this concept in integrating it within the current framework of the ministry. I don’t know that adults should never speak or pray or lead. We need to be good examples to our students and I don’t like the idea of relegating myself to a coach and supporter only. That said, I also believe that there is great merit here and that this could be the best way for students to grow and for the group of students to take ownership of the ministry in ways that will be conducive to their making it a priority in life and I think that it will, as Eldred says, foster students being committed members of churches beyond high school and throughout life. And that is the ultimate goal of youth ministry: to create lifelong disciples of Christ.


Laziness, busyness, and holiness

Some days, I am just plain lazy. In many ways I have been lazy about this blog. I was going great in February and March, but the last six weeks I have been doing other things. There have been times that I was inspired to write, that I wanted to, but I didn’t. I guess that either means that I didn’t really want to or that I just have better things to do. Both are probably true. I just hope that laziness over sharing my thoughts over this blog don’t reflect anything greater than that. I am eager to spend a day or two hear and there doing nothing but reading, driving, maybe enjoying a friend’s company. Lazy days. More aptly, they are my days of rest. My Sabbath. But that is a whole different thing than lack of effort for something like this when I do indeed have plenty of time.Thank God it’s this blog that has been neglected over my ministry, family, or job search. May I continue to neglect the least important things in favor of those that God has directly given me for his glory.

Busyness is something that I too familiar with. I was a busy kid in high school. I was a busy college student, to the point that I overwhelmed myself more than once. I am still busy, but it is a different busyness. I have fewer things in my life that are more time consuming and they don’t wear on me like my schedule did in college. I see busyness every day. I work at a busy church, with busy staff, busy congregation, a busy building, and my job is to minister to busy busy busy teenagers. They seem more busy than I ever was at there age. That may entirely be an illusion, but it is my perception. The single greatest source of my stress when it comes to busyness right now, however is my job search. Transition is hard. Figuring out how to balance my current ministry and continuing to minister well, to serve well, to invest well, to listen well, all the while I am looking for the next ministry and the next set of kids I will do all these things with is harder than anything else I have done professionally. Busyness for me right now is tied to the almost fifty applications I have filled out, the ten-ish interviews I have done (with multiple interviews with some churches). It is hard like nothing else I have done.

Holiness is the slow progression of becoming more and more like Christ is our desires, thoughts, intentions, and actions. Christ, in his holiness, would have the right balance between the laziness and rest, between busyness and overcommitment, between ministry now and searching for that which is to come. I am screwing it up. Not in big ways, in fact, I would say that I am doing a decent job of this balance as far as my own abilities and human perspective are concerned. But those are not my standard of measure. I am striving to be like Christ and to figure out what all Christ would have me do in order for my character to be ever more conformed to his. It is hard. And I am screwing it up good. It is messy, as the late Mike Yaconelli would say. It is part of my spirituality, my pursuit of the one who is pursuing me first.

Maybe all this is morbid, narcissistic ramblings, but there is a peace about setting thoughts and feelings down in written word. There is something comforting about writing and so I return and will try to balance this with the other things in my life, realizing its relative unimportance. May it never become greater than its actual importance.