As a youth leader, have you ever thought or dreamed about starting up a youth ministry from scratch? Maybe that represents a personal nightmare scenario, but for some youth workers it is a an experience that they have always wanted to try on for size. Chris Cummings, who is our guest poster today is doing just that through a church plant in Tennessee. Chris has been reading the posts on Youth Ministry Innovators for some time and gave me a call a couple of weeks ago. Chris is in his most preliminary missionary stages of entering a new gospel environment. He is just beginning to discern what God might be calling him to do or not do in his new context. Here is what he has to say.
"Hi, I’m Chris and I’m a Youth Pastor.
I wanted to share about the new adventure that I am on, that I am not sure of the destination or even the journey to get there.
Five weeks ago, I started at a new church plant in south Nashville, www.thevillagenashville.com. The church launched in Jan, but I was just hired mid August to start the youth ministry from scratch.
I have been in youth ministry for over 10 years now, but I have never started one from scratch. As I started to pray and dream about what God wanted this to look like, I knew that it couldn’t and shouldn’t look like just another youth ministry. The mission of the church is to connect people who have left the church or have never connected to the church to make disciples who make disciples.
If you are going to target people who have either left the church or have never been connected to one, it is pretty obvious that just doing the same ol’ thing isn’t going to cut it.
And here is where I find myself, in an amazingly missional and active church, without a building; planted in the middle of a fast growing area, hoping to reach as many teens and families as possible for the sake of the Kingdom.
As I have been working through what this is going to look like, I have come down to a couple things that I think God always uses to help guide us, which Frederick Buechner said so well: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”
1. DEEP HUNGER - What are the needs of the community?
In order to know this, we need to be go where people are and become great listeners. We need to listen to the spoken needs and also the unspoken ones they might not know to express. Asking questions like “What needs to be set right again?” “Where is there brokenness?” “What are the places that need a Band-Aid while also figuring out what system is causing the wounds?”
We hope to spend this fall and into the winter as listeners.
2. DEEP GLADNESS - What are the gifts of our church?
We hope to spend the next few months gathering our group of teens and leaders, helping them discover their gifts, and then practicing them and looking at how they might meet the needs of our community.
What if we, the church, are gifted in each of our contexts to specifically meet needs in our community? What if it is exactly as this intersection of deep hunger and deep gladness that we find our vision, purpose, and direction?
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor 12:7)
So this is where I am, we are, on a new adventure of seeking where God is at work and joining in for the redemption of our community and world.
I can’t seem to shake everything that I have always known as youth ministry. Youth Group, small groups, mission trips, fun nights, etc. And I know that none of these are inherently bad, but I don’t want them to be the goal or even focus.
How do I lean into the intersection of deep hunger and deep gladness, while also creating a space for teens to grow as disciples that make disciples?
This is the question I am asking myself all the time, and it is the one guiding our choices. What would you do?"