Rooted 2013 Recall
Along with dozens of other youth ministers, I am going through Rooted withdrawal. Rooted 2013 was a great blessing of fellowship, worship, and learning, granted to many of us by the Lord. In reflecting, I wanted to record some of the things I observed about youth ministry and its ministers, based on my time at this year’s conference.
1.) Everyone needs to be reminded of the Gospel again and again and again.
It’s funny, if you work in a church you can find yourself incessantly using the term “Gospel.” At the same time, every person needs to hear the word of the Gospel over and over again. If there were a group of people with frequent exposure to the word of grace, it is those working in ministry. Nevertheless, day by day and hour by hour, we all stumble, fail, worry, judge, defend, etc. Youth pastors, like all people, need a healthy diet of the message that God loves struggling sinners.
2). No ministry has it all together; we all have our areas of insufficiency.
On Friday night, Brent Bounds and David Plant of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York offered an overview of their ministry. Redeemer is one of the most known and respected churches in the world, and, yet, David and Brent were quick to admit that they do not have everything figured out. They highlighted areas where they thrive and other areas where they struggle. These confessions of weakness were perhaps the most encouraging and refreshing aspects of this extremely valuable presentation. Many people remarked that they felt affirmed to know that even one of the most high-profile, respected churches in America is not perfect. We all have our areas where we remain a work in progress or a total mess, and all need the Lord to redeem and renew them.
3.) In trying to do Gospel-centered ministry in this day and age, one is cutting against the grain and likely all alone.
We hear repeatedly from people who are trying to do ministry focused on discipleship, biblical depth, and Gospel proclamation that they have a very difficult time finding like-minded partners. Often they say that they cannot find one like-minded person in their entire community with whom to talk about ministry. While many recognize the shortcomings of entertainment-driven, programmatic-oriented youth ministry, not many people at this point seem to have moved in the direction of returning to the basics of biblical exegesis, relational-discipleship, and Gospel-centeredness. It seems that a large part of God’s intention with Rooted is to build a broader network of people trying to do youth ministry in this manner.
4.) Attractional ministry seems exhausting.
A common narrative among Rooted 2013 attendees was that a large part of the reason they had reduced and deemphasized entertainment in their ministry was because they were exhausted. Constantly trying to entertain kids and maintain programs wore them down over time. Meanwhile, in moving to a simplified discipleship-oriented approach had refreshed them because they relied far more on the Word, Spirit, and Gospel to do the work. They had shifted the burden from their shoulders over to God and the means of grace.
5.) The body of Christ is beautiful.
On Friday night, conference attendees gathered for dinner at a local establishment. At my end of the table were people from all four corners of the United States (and I mean it: Daytona Beach, Los Angeles, the greater Portland area, and New York) and eight different denominations. There was a sense that we all had know each other for a decade and a great sense of solidarity in our love for Jesus and His Gospel. Although the ministry contexts could not have been more different, the mission and foundation remained the same. It was a beautiful thing and privilege of which to be a part.