Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Yesterday's comments include a couple people wanting to know how to fix dove. The very question misses the larger context of this blog. The answer to serving dove is guacamole. Tonight I'm fixing dove fajitas -- with fresh guacamole (starting with Haas avocados), beans, onions, peppers, and tortillas right off the tortilla-maker at HEB. I'll grill the dove with a little bacon and a bit of sauce and then slap them on the fajita plate. I've also been known to make quail fajitas and sandhill crane fajitas. Mmmm, good. - - - - Just a word about youth ministers here. I've been blessed to speak at lots of conferences for youth ministers through the years, and I've gotten to know many of them. Here's what I've discovered: so many of them are among the most passionate, godly leaders I've ever met. They tend to fly under the radar a bit since they are "youth ministers"--but trust me, their influence permeates throughout their churches. Most of them are thinking theologically in a way that connects with culture. They have to answer the question "Where was God in this?" constantly, because teens aren't afraid to ask. They have developed a knack for seeing beneath the surface to the deeper issues. For example, when everyone was blathering on about Generation X, most youth ministers saw beneath those "studies" to the deeper cultural shifts involved. Church leaders are, thankfully, talking more and more about missional living. I think many youth ministers led the way. Over the past couple decades they have moved away from the ski trip model of youth ministry (though there's nothing wrong with a good old ski trip!) to the mission trip model. They know that their job isn't to meet all the perceived needs of their teens or to compete with the next megachurch down the road but to help in the transformation of students into passionate disciples of Christ who seek to participate in the work of God. So many youth ministers I know are passionate about kingdom, mission, incarnational living, authenticity, and -- of course -- the gospel. They have little time for denominational concerns and have been moving beyond those borders long before others decided that is a good idea. In my freshman Bible class each fall, I ask my students to fill out a sheet to help me get to know them. One question asks them to tell me about the most influential person in their spiritual formation. As you would guess, moms and dads lead the list. But the next group is youth ministers. Isn't that amazing? So many university freshmen remember them as their mentors/guides/teachers! Does your church have a youth minister? Or if not, how about volunteers who pour themselves into the ministry? Then thank them! Pray for them! Encourage them! Support them! Can you imagine what a word from you might do to give them new strength? Or an invitation to go to lunch? Or a promise to pray for them by name each week? So today, I give thanks to all of you out there who are involved in the faith formation of teenagers. As the dad of a 7th grader, I know just how important you are!


  • Sandhill crane fajitas?

    The youth ministers my kids have been involved with over the years seem to have more of a sense of urgency about kingdom living than other ministries. Thank God for Youth Ministers, Young Life, and Student Adventure folks!

    By Blogger David Michael, at 9/20/2005 04:35:00 AM  

  • My youth minister cornered me one night after Wednesday night youth group when I was in 8th grade. He asked me why I wasn't at the meeting the week before about the summer mission trip. He told me he thought that i would make a big difference and needed to go. Somewhat out of duty, but mostly out of curiosity to see if this could be true, I went on a summer mission trip. The tasks performed, the relationships built, and the simple words of a man challenging me changed my life. I'll never forget getting cornered that night.

    Today, I'm somewhat of a youth minister. I minister to over 1800 k-12 students at a Christian school in metro-Atlanta. Fortunately this type of role seems to be growing in Christians schools today, as well.

    But my calling to ministry, I believe, came on that winter, Wednesday night back in 1988. I made many changes because of it. And today, many students are still being blessed by the ministry of my youth minister that got "stuck" in me.

    By the way, what time is dinner? Should I bring anything, or just an appetite for Dove Fajitas? :)

    By Blogger Jon, at 9/20/2005 04:46:00 AM  

  • Mike - Dove fajitas actually sound pretty good! And your fresh guac sounds great too.

    Tonight is fish taco night at our house... breaded talapia, a sauce made with sour cream, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, scallions and fresh lime juice. A little shredded lettuce, some Vermont Jack cheddar and BAM!

    But tonight - I think I am going to have to make from fresh guacamole!

    I love flour tortillas. I like 'em with eggs in the morning, around some turkey or roast beef at lunch and then again at night with anything...

    By Blogger J A Pierpont, at 9/20/2005 06:20:00 AM  

  • Sadly, those that have worked with the youth at our current church seem to still be mostly stuck with the "ski-trip" mentality. It's gotten a bit better, but I remember hearing one of these fellows say that you shouldn't expect too much of teens. Yikes!

    The one church in our area that had a paid youth minister doesn't anymore. The reason? They needed the money they were paying him for the new building project. Double Yikes!

    By Blogger reJoyce, at 9/20/2005 06:22:00 AM  

  • I have a prayer request. Our youth minister, Terry Reeves, was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma and has been struggling this past year in treatment. After a second surgery last week it was determined there are several more tumors. This was a real blow since we really hoped that surgery was going to be the end of it. Terry has impacted 1000's of lives for Christ. Over the past 15 years he has led teams of youth from all over the country on mission trips to Honduras. I beg you to keep him and his family in your prayers as they face the difficult days ahead.

    By Blogger Rcutsinger, at 9/20/2005 06:23:00 AM  

  • Along with our prayers for the amazing young people that take on the Youth Ministry at our churches, I'd ask that we also consider praying thatan Elder couple come alongside to co-minister with them, to mentor the Youth Minister(s).

    Personally, I keep our Sarah in constant prayer. Her enthusiasm, love and care for the youth at Highland is a joy to watch. Again, I'm the non-sequitar here since I have neither kids, nieces-nephews, grandkids etc. at Highland, but I'd be happy clam if Sarah were to be the successful candidate for the open position at Highland, but again, that's just me. :o)

    "By the way, what time is dinner? Should I bring anything, or just an appetite for Dove Fajitas? :)"
    Hey! I'm actually within shooting distance [pun intended]. So echo the question, "what time is dinner?" LOL

    By Blogger Kathy, at 9/20/2005 06:31:00 AM  

  • Thom Rainer, a Baptist statistician, reports that the lowest percentage of those claiming Jesus Christ as their savior falls on the 14-27 age group. Wanna guess how low it is, according to Rainer?


    Randy Harris says this reveals that as a whole, youth ministry has failed. I love and respect those who devote their lives to discipling teenagers, but could there be a systemic problem with youth ministry?

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 9/20/2005 06:32:00 AM  

  • clarification: Could there be a systemic problem with youth ministry as it has traditionally been viewed?

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 9/20/2005 06:34:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 9/20/2005 06:34:00 AM  

  • My children were blessed with a great youth minister. You know him in fact and he is one of your elders! Mark was a great influence on my two and is still a powerful source of encouragement and leadership in their lives, especially the younger one.

    I think it is of note to say that Mark had such an influence on the kids he mentored and when we look back on those kids, almost everyone of them are in an occupation of service to others! I think that says a lot about Mark's mentoring!

    By the way? What time is dinner? Sounds great!

    Peggy Corder

    By Blogger pegc, at 9/20/2005 06:36:00 AM  

  • "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God and eat Guac with everything...." Finally your "hidden agenda" has been revealed - you are trying to make us all put on Guac. to be fully justified!

    God has blessed our church with two youth ministers that are incredible. Greg Dowell and Adam Gray - unbelievable men of God who take the call of discipleship so seriously. They are asking our kids the tough questions. They challenge our kids to live missional lives with Kingdom goals. We are blessed.
    Steve, yes there probably is systemic issues to deal with in Youth Ministry...as well as every other ministry we are involved with. But today I love being able to celebrate those who are loving kids with Jesus' love and drawing others to Him.

    By Blogger Arlene Kasselman, at 9/20/2005 06:43:00 AM  

  • Every Tuesday morning I sit in a coffee shop with some friends. This morning, while munching on a cheese bagel, the conversation turned to our church's ongoing search (for about a year or so) for a youth minister. When I returned home and saw that Mike talked about youth ministers today I found it very appropriate and encouraging.

    My parents loved me deeply, and taught me well. But it was a youth minister named Edelhuber that challenged me to make my relationship with Christ real, and not just habitual Sunday lip-service (my young ears also heard and learned a wealth of wisdom from you, Mike).

    Praying for our youth ministers is of utmost importance. But, we also cannot leave the job to them alone. Encourage your youth minister through prayer, but also by jumping in and lending a hand to their mission.

    By Blogger Keith, at 9/20/2005 06:54:00 AM  

  • Thanks Mike.

    By Blogger Big Mike Lewis, at 9/20/2005 06:56:00 AM  

  • as a youth minister up here in northern virginia, thank you, mike, for your encouragement. keep us in your prayers cause "flying under the radar" is lonely work.

    By Blogger freebyrd, at 9/20/2005 07:31:00 AM  

  • Thanks, Mike, for helping to fill my cup back up. As someone once said, "It's Tuesday...but Wednesday night teen group is coming!" (or something along those lines).

    Saw your folks during JUMPSTART. Hard workers, those two.

    Joplin, MO

    By Blogger David Scott, at 9/20/2005 07:56:00 AM  

  • That settles it -- I'm going out for fish tacos at lunchtime today.

    And I'll pray for youth ministers before diving in. :-)

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 9/20/2005 08:03:00 AM  

  • My dad was a youth minister from 1971 - 1991. Now I'm married to a youth minister and it's amazing how much youth ministry has evolved over the years. We still have trips and fun stuff and serious stuff, and with all the youth ministry models and journal articles about what's going on inside kids' heads, youth ministry can seem pretty complex. The basic mission is simple, though. We just want the kids to learn to be Jesus to other people.

    By the way, the only Dove I eat is chocolate...

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 9/20/2005 08:11:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    One of the big reasons I took the job at Lake Cities was the opportunity that my daughter Laura would have learning about Jesus from her (our) youth minister, Matt McBryde. Matt is an amazing man who loves God and loves others and is committed to letting God lead his life. Thanks for your words about an area of ministry that I am so passionate about. I think the bottom line comes back to the question raised by Westerhoff many years ago, "Will Our Children Have Faith?"

    I am blessed to declare that many will in this community of faith because of Godly parents, a committed church family, the mysterious working of Holy Spirit and a great youth minister named Matt!

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 9/20/2005 08:49:00 AM  

  • Youth ministry and food have always been a great combination. Thanks for the thoughts, Mike. And thank you to all the adult volunteers who serve as ministers to youth and tell the next generation about the power of God (Ps. 71:18).

    By Blogger H. Heflin, at 9/20/2005 08:59:00 AM  

  • Joel -- after studies began showing teens/young adults leaving the CoC at alarming rates, that question became "Will our faith have children?" We have to give kids a reason to stay in church other than "Because we're the only ones that have it right." Young people stopped buying that a long time ago. We need more YMs like yours (and ours -- my husband) whose vision is more Christ-based.

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 9/20/2005 09:32:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Thank you for the kind words of encouragment. Too often we get a water balloon instead of a hug or a cheap shot instead of a high five. Thank your for your encouragment. Thank you also to Joel, and especially Houston! Two of the best!!
    Matt McBryde
    Youth Minister - Lake Cities Church of Christ

    By Blogger Matt McBryde, at 9/20/2005 09:33:00 AM  

  • Thanks a whole lot Mike. This really means a lot to me!

    By Blogger CL, at 9/20/2005 10:06:00 AM  

  • mike,
    Thanks for the kind words. Having been in ym for 19 years, I will tell you how few kind words there have been. However, I did not answer the call to ministry for a pat on the back but with the purpose of leading teens to Christ. My prayer each day is for the young guns who are on the front lines for the first time, maybe in a church that still sees them as a director and not a minister. I pray they remain strong in their call and convicted to the word of God and not the dogma of our faith. We cannot let satan take a single one of our kids; they are our most preciuos resource.
    By the way, you mentioned kids selling in an earlier article. The way I handle this is to give one teens in Jr. Hi and one in Hi School a shot, first come, first served. (My son is an 8th grader so guess which Jr. higher gets the sale?)
    Thanks for all you do and my prayers are always with you and yours.

    Because of a cross,

    Joey Wrape

    By Blogger joeyw, at 9/20/2005 10:34:00 AM  

  • My blessing came not so much from a YM, but from a college campus minister. Same concept though ... the guy challenged me to grow up and into the faith that had been born years earlier through my child and teen years.

    I want to throw out a concept here to those who hope that successful youth ministry will translate into healthier churches of Christ. I see it differently. I hope that successful youth ministry will translate instead into a healthier kingdom of God, where Christians are more united among many Bible believing fellowships. I pray that today's youth ministers challenge young minds to think outside the walls of the churches of Christ, and to reach out to their fellow Christian classmates who worship at the Baptist churches, the independent Bible churches, the home churches, the community churches, the _________ (you fill in the blank) churches. When that happens. The result will be a strengthening of the kingdom, and of the brotherhood of churches of Christ.

    By Blogger Brian, at 9/20/2005 11:43:00 AM  

  • Wow-what a great and encouraging post!! We seriously need to hear that more-I too have been blessed by many many youth ministers, who I am sure played a huge role in my calling to do youth ministry.

    I couldn't ask for a better job than the one I am doing right now-working, living, and serving with Freshmen who are making so many decisions and trying to find their own faith. It is a completely different ministry, but still such a blessing!! I still love those junior high kids, though...

    I am also making fajitas tonight, but mine are starting to not sound near as good...I'll echo the rest...when did you say dinner was? ;)

    By Blogger Katherine, at 9/20/2005 11:44:00 AM  

  • Mike, if it were not for a former youth minister in FW, named Ron Beasley, I can't even imagine where my life would have taken me. 27 years ago he counseled me in an old stable in Mexia, Texas and my life was changed by his prayer and words of encouragement. I thank the Lord for him and his family everytime I think about Youth ministers and the work they do.

    By Blogger Daryl, at 9/20/2005 11:44:00 AM  

  • The youth ministers at my church move mountains. They host a huge youth rally every Christmas break. Now that youth rally is going to be (if they can possibly swing it) in Southern Mississippi and the purpose of changing venues is for one reason - serve Katrina victims.

    This ain't no ski trip, baby.

    Some people take the view that youth ministry is a stepping stone to preaching ministry. No! Youth ministry is a good stepping stone to church planting.

    Take a look at who is leading the emerging church movement. If you nudge Brain McLaren out of the way, it is a bunch of youth ministers who refuse to be domesticated, that's who.

    Missional youth ministry cannot help but create a church within a church, that hopefully will permeate the culture.

    By Blogger Fajita, at 9/20/2005 12:34:00 PM  

  • I was a youth minister's secretary for 4 years. Now he's serving a one of the shepherd's at my congregation. When he was selected, I told him there was NO one I would rather be led by. He was a wonderful boss, he is a godly man and elder. I will hold him and his family in my heart and prayers always.

    By Blogger monniecoco, at 9/20/2005 01:47:00 PM  

  • Fajita -- Right on, man. The key word in your response was "missional" youth ministry. Unfortunately, I haven't seen this much. Call me a cynic, but I was in youth groups or around church teens all my life, and most church youth groups are about -- well, the same thing most churches are about -- maintenance rather than mission. I like your concept of a "church within a church." This is key. Youth groups do often lead the way in terms of responding to urgent needs and pushing the older folk out of their comfort zones. My prayer is that focus in youth ministry turns from "keeping our own kids happy and coming back" to "igniting a fire within our kids to reach their friends."

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 9/20/2005 01:50:00 PM  

  • Amen Mike! (And Steve Jr.) A little thanks goes a very long way. It's easy to get cynical when you are the one trying to make the changes towards missional instead of towards traditional, and the parents, elders, whoever don't get it or they think it's all about THEIR child.

    There are some great men and women out there focused on teens. Some are paid, some are not. Some are full-time, some of them make the time "after hours". But they ALL have atleast one thing in common. They love to hear that what they are doing is making a difference and how much they are appreciated. Not just once a year when they are officially recognized by the whole church, but day to day when they are in the trenches.

    Thanks again Mike! So many people look to you to set an example and you do it so well! :)

    By Blogger Niki, at 9/20/2005 04:06:00 PM  

  • Bubba Martin - best YM ever. Raised in a boys home in Mississippi by saints named Olonzo and Catherine Welch. Was not a trained YM as we have today, but he understood boys and could have lectured for days on unconditional love. I owe so much of who I am to Bubba, his wife Robynn and their family. I am so thankful that my parents allowed me to spend countless hours with the Martins.

    By Blogger Byron, at 9/20/2005 08:40:00 PM  

  • Hi Steve -

    I appreciate your comment on the success, or lack thereof, of youth ministry. No question, there are things wrong with youth ministry. For that matter, I think we would all agree that there are things wrong with the church as a whole.

    However, I would disagree with the conclusion that youth ministry has failed, based on the statistic quoted. That number should alarm parents even more than youth ministers, because we are talking about a function (teaching Jesus and helping develop faith) that is the job of the parent.

    The function of the youth minister has never been to be the primary person who teaches and helps teens understand and grasp faith. For children of believers, that is the job of the parent. The youth minister is a tool to help parents accomplish that challenge and to try to assist parents in equipping their teens for lives of service, sacrifice and outreach.

    The very premise of the statement that 4% of 14-27 year olds grasp faith and therefore youth ministry has failed assumes that the primary person responsible for the teaching of faith to that group is the youth minister or the youth ministry.

    I also think it is very dangerous to speak in broad generalizations. While I'm sure there are youth ministries that don't go deep enough (although I’m not exactly sure what that means), in my experience, the vast majority of youth ministers have no desire to keep kids and parents happy.

    Instead, they seek to help teens mature in faith, help them know Jesus better and help them know how to share that faith with others. And they are passionate about that call.

    Just as the church struggles in those very issues, so does youth ministry. But, as you correctly point out that we need to leave behind the old model of ski trips, etc., I would likewise suggest that we leave behind the old model of assuming that the youth minister is primarily responsible for the faith formation of teens. We are a tool and we strive to work in overdrive to help teens in that way, but the believing parents are the ones who hold the God-given responsibility for that.

    I wish we in the church were mature enough to be rabid about sharing the Good News with others, but unfortunately, the evidence suggests we are not. That 4% number partially reflects that fact.

    We must all do all we can to reverse this trend in The Body of Christ. And it really has to start in the home.

    The encouraging thing is that there are pockets of radical faith emerging in the church that are outside the traditional box and are earnestly seeking relevant ways to share the Good News with not only the lost, but with those who have some faith, but haven't yet begun to mature in it.

    Many thanks to Mike for the gracious words! You were Barnabas to me today.

    By Blogger Rick McCall, at 9/20/2005 09:29:00 PM  

  • It's messy, frustrating, exhausting, exhilerating, intense and so much more. I can't imagine doing anything else. I have the opportunity to stand on holy ground with students as they ask tough questions, try to discover who they are (or aren't), come to terms with this thing they call faith. My prayer is that they fall in love with Jesus and conform to his likeness for the sake of others.

    By Blogger Chad, at 9/20/2005 09:50:00 PM  

  • I've got some black bear meat and moose meat in my freezer

    By Blogger Chad, at 9/20/2005 09:51:00 PM  

  • Thanks, Mike! Your words make me feel good for the first time in a long time about who I am as a youth minister!

    By Blogger Youth and Family Guy, at 9/21/2005 06:55:00 AM  

  • Thanks for the boost, Mike! We youth ministers REALLY appreciate pulpit ministers who show GENUINE interest in us, and don't just think of us as "junior ministers."
    Thanks again!

    By Blogger Franklin Wood, at 9/21/2005 09:26:00 AM  

  • Great post

    By Blogger Lindsey, at 9/21/2005 10:03:00 AM  

  • As a youth minister who IS a deep thinker, I appreciate so much your post. Thanks for giving us some credit!

    By Blogger adam martin, at 9/24/2005 11:35:00 AM  

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