Youth Ministry with a Mission: Clear, Convincing and Compelling

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Perhaps the most important thing that was being pushed in my early years of ministry was the construction of vision, purpose and mission statements. I don’t know if anyone understood the difference between the three; however, you presumably had to have each of them. It also seemed, to me at least, that each statement had to be a paragraph long, and it had to be dazzling with Shekinah glory as it hung on the wall and website for everyone to see. I am not really sure that I ever followed my statements in those early days, but I do know that they were quite elaborate and impressive to look at.

Then one day I read a quote by Andy Stanley that asked, “Is what’s written on the wall, actually happening down the hall?” I knew I was busted. Even though all my statements looked and sounded great, they were just wasted words, and I had sacrificed clarity for creativity.

In his book, “Christ-Centered Preaching,” Bryan Chapell talks about the 2 a.m. factor, that a preacher should be able to wake from a dead sleep at 2 a.m. Sunday morning and right away state the main meaning of the sermon for that day. I decided a while back that I would apply this rule to my student ministry’s mission statement. If a parent bumped into me at Starbucks and asked about our purpose, I needed to be able to look her right in the eye and tell her. I also decided that, rather than being fancy with words, I would let the Scripture speak through my mission statement.

I resolved to have one statement, rather than three, and I concluded that, at the end of the day, Christ wants my students to know Him. Therefore, my mission would be “to help students grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ by creating a culture of discipleship around them.” This does not mean that every student is on the same path of sanctification, but we do desire that each of them takes the next step with Christ, whatever that step may be. When clarity of our mission statement trumps flair and verbiage, we can communicate precisely what our goal is, and everyone involved in our ministry knows what they are to be about. It is a beautiful sound to our volunteers, parents and church.

If the message is not clear, though, they will craft for themselves a meaning and purpose from your statement. At that point you lose control and vision, and each parent and volunteer conceives their own idea of what your ministry should look like. Fortunately, there is much less room for confusion when our mission statements clearly and truthfully point to what God wills for our ministries. Some mission statements may be creative, but they must always be Christ-centered. (Too often, and particularly in youth ministry, I see a mission statement that any religion, or even non-religion, could accept.) All of our efforts are to help our students have a growing relationship with the person of Christ. We have one job to do, and that is to disciple.

As youth ministers, we must be able to say with conviction, “this is the direction we are going.” We may not be able to map every individual step in getting there; however, we must lead our ministries in the direction that God calls for us. A biblical and well-communicated mission statement is essential for effectively leading students and parents, and for giving God the glory as He lights our path.
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