The Guest Post comes as a continuation of our series from last week,"The 7th C," understanding how YL & the local Church can better partner together. It was submitted by Paul Mannino, a youth pastor (and former YL leader) in California.
I’ve been a youth pastor for a while now, and I have a confession to make.
I think I have become domesticated. I was raised Catholic, turned away from the church when I was in middle school, and then came to faith in Jesus through Young Life in high school. When I went to college, I knew I wanted to get involved with Young Life; so I went through training and became a leader. Towards the end of my college experience, I stepped back from Young Life to focus on school.
When I made a "comeback" in ministry, it was at a local church, as a youth pastor. But ministry was different. Instead of patrolling the cafeteria of the high school (like I had with YL in college)—I backed out and went less offensive and more defensive.
“What do I do with the kids I have? How do I help them grow? I really need to get them to invite their friends. Every once in awhile I’ll visit them out at school.” But things like “contact work” and filling my schedule up with high school sporting events were replaced with staff meetings and insular stuff.
Dang. I became domesticated. When did that happen?
I've heard it's wise to fill our schedules with things that are “important over the urgent.” Man, sometimes I feel like reality is the other way around. There seem to be so many urgent things when you are working at a local church that the local high schools essentially become afterthoughts. “I mean, I’ve got to have a meeting with this important church person—how could I ever make a commitment to go out and 'just' hang out with high school kids?”
Ouch. Did I just write that?
Am I so evolved now? I think I’m still stuck in that rut, forgetting my roots; but, more importantly, not seeing how the local church and Young Life are on the same mission. I mean, my church’s mission is to “make disciples who make disciples.” How is that much different than “introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith”?
I feel like the local church has so many things that could fuel Young Life [mature adults, accountability for young leaders (something I sorely lacked when I was leading in college), etc.]. I feel like Young Life has so many things going for it that could fuel the local church (way cooler volunteers and a fearless focus on reaching kids where they are). But, man, we’ve got to get around the same table. So here’s what I literally just did (as I was writing this).
I just hit up my local Young Life club. All I had to do was google the high school name and “Young Life.” It wasn’t that hard. I sent them a message. I want to join with them. Yes, I have so many things that I am doing in the church (ugh, especially on week nights), but there’s something about Young Life that reaches kids where they are that I want to get in on. I don’t know if the local club has a church really backing and strengthening what they’re doing, but I’m going to offer help. I also just left them a voicemail too. I guess you’ve got to be willing to start the conversation.