The job title of ‘Youth Pastor’ is not to be found in the Bible. It’s not there in the Ephesians 4 list or mentioned anywhere else in Scripture. It’s a relatively new phenomenon (for Northern Ireland anyway). Yet more and more people are taking up this responsibility in the local church. Obviously there is a clear biblical mandate for passing on faith to the next generation (Deuteronomy 6; Psalm 78; Ecclesiastes 12; 2 Timothy 3) but what about the actual role of ministering specifically to young people. Is that not an unbiblical idea? Is it not favouritism of one group (ie the young) over another group (ie the old)?
Recently as I read through Galatians some things stood out for me as having real significance for those in full-time youth ministry positions. The Apostle Paul says in this letter that the God who had…
‘set me apart before I was born and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I may preach him among the Gentiles.’
Paul recognised that his calling from God was to a specific people group. This did not stop him from speaking to Jews but it meant that he had been equipped with passion and gifting to communicate the good news about Jesus to those from a non-Jewish background. Paul sees that the purpose of his own salvation is tied up in ministry/evangelism among the Gentiles.
As I read these few verses I became aware again of the call of God upon my life to work among the young. This work excites me and I sense that He has made me like this, God intentionally gave me a passion for this people group, just like He gave Paul a passion for the Gentiles. God has equipped and is equipping me for this work just like He has done for so many others in the past. In chapter 2 of Galatians Paul returns to this theme of specificity in ministry and unique calling to different cultures and groups when he says..
…they saw I had been entrusted with the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the Jews.
The pressure in Christian youth work to get a ‘real job’ is constant. People regularly try to encourage me by telling me that I’m ‘wasting my time’ and should be a minister. I know their intentions are well meaning and I genuinely appreciate their encouragement but I don’t believe that I’m wasting my time on the young. I am not so naive as to believe that I will retire from being a youth pastor at the age of 65 but I do think that some are in too much of a hurry to move people on from the calling that God has placed upon their life or maybe even a season of their life.
The final thing that stood out from Galatians was that even Paul got frustrated with the people group he was called to love. Paul got disillusioned. Paul asked the tough question that I am tempted to ask each time a young person who showed real promise ends up doing something that’s really disappointing. Paul says
Motivation for ministry among young people should not come from the results of our ministry among young people. Motivation for ministry must come from a love for Jesus, otherwise when the results dry up then so will the motivation.
am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? … If I were trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.