Monday, January 30, 2006

Sr. Pastors at Youth Worker Connection

I'm in Chicago at the Hyatt Hotel in anticipation of the annual Covenant Midwinter Conference for pastors. Each year I attend it as part of my continuing education and the need for connections and fellowship. The weekend just before the Midwinter is devoted to youth pastors and worship leaders. I did not attend these in the past because "they were not geared for me." Their music was way too loud, they stood to sing continually. There was too much jumping up and down.
But over the past four years I have been attending for selfish and unselfish reasons. The selfish reason is that my son, Luke, is a youth pastor in Oregon and this gives us a chance to hang out together, to room together and to eat together. The unselfish reason was that I began attending the worship connection with worship leaders, giving us a chance to learn and grow together as we explored new and varied ways of worship.
Today, Rev. Efrem Smith from Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis was the final speaker. His sermon "Youth Culture; Opposition or Opportunity" nailed me to my chair. It was a call to arms to youth pastors to engage the culture for the souls of our youth, using Acts 17 where Paul engages the culture of Athens. Efrem reminded me, a senior pastor who has had a number of youth pastors working for me, how critical it is to have heart-driven youth pastors out there in the trenches where our students are: the found and the lost. He talked about the hazzards of the job; about how easily it is to be misunderstood, devalued and criticized for "playing with" the youth.
Now I'm listening as both a senior pastor and father of a youth pastor and my heart was saying "Yes!" Then I looked around for other senior pastors, and saw a handful of us. Some with sons and daughters in ministry like me. Others because they were there in partnership with their youth staff. But way too many youth pastors were there alone, by themselves, heading back this afternoon still misunderstood and underpayed and underappreciated, but doing youth ministry because it matters.
Next year, I think I might even register as a paying participant!!


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