Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ministry is Messy

Our church has a large group of teens that we are working with, well over 100 in the program. They are a spiritually mixed group, with a few coming from strong Evangelical Christian homes, a few coming from religious non-evangelical homes and a large group coming from non-religious homes. Pretty much every major religious denomination is represented in the group and there are at least two that come from Buddhist families and one from a Jewish home. It makes for very interesting discussion during our Bible studies.

The group also comes from a mixture of economic backgrounds. A few are from upper middle class homes and are relatively affluent. A large number come from single parents homes and have the accompanying financial pressure such a situation naturally creates. A small group comes from families that are living on the edge of poverty. At least one has been homeless at one point in her life, living for a time in the family automobile.

The group has the full range of family issues that any group of teens that size would have naturally. Some come from stable homes and have all the support that such a home offers. Some live with their grandparents. Some live in foster care. Some live in homes that are less stable. Some live in homes that have little or no stability at all. Each of these situations imparts in that particular young person a skill set for how to deal with issues and situations in life. They learn how to survive in whatever their situation is. Some of those “survival skills” will help them become healthy adults; some of them are warping their sense of how the world really works, depending on what they have learned from their family situation.

It is a challenge working with teens from such a wide variety of backgrounds. But for the most part, the group moves past those issues and gets along well. However, recently we had a disagreement that quickly escalated into a physical confrontation between a small group of boys. Sadly, the police had to be called and one young man ended up arrested. Though he was released later that evening, it was an emotional situation for all involved.

It would be easy to just shut the whole program down to avoid the possibility of such events happening in the future. But that would punish a lot of young people who did nothing wrong. It would be easy to just limit the program just to those youth that had “good” behavior. But who would decide what the definition of “good” was and who would “police” the door to only let the chosen few in? And how would such a decision impact the church’s mission to the community? After all, haven't we all done some things we regret in our lives? Didn't we hope someone would give us another chance?

In the end, we decided to suspend the young men involved for three weeks, to increase our adult supervision of the group, and talk openly and honestly about the situation both to the teens involved and to the group as a whole. And so the ministry continues and life goes on.

The reality is that ministry is messy. This is especially true if you are focusing on those who did not grow up attending church every Sunday. Churches must be willing to get their hands dirty. Churches must be willing to reach into the culture and literally snatch the perishing from the hands of Satan. If churches are not willing to do this, then why exist at all? So go get your hands dirty this week and rejoice that God gives you the opportunity to be engaged in such wonderful work!

Dr. T.

Learn more about reaching young people in Dr. Terry Dorsett's book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church.


  1. Jeremiah 31:16 - This is what the LORD says: Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for the reward for your work will come, this is the LORD's declaration, and your children will return from the enemy's land.

  2. I could learn alot from you and your group. I have a desire to reach the youth in our community.
    I will contact you for further insight