Read an ExcerptGetting Fired for the Glory of God
Collected Words of Mike Yaconelli for Youth Workers
By Mike Yaconelli
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One SOULS IN DANGER (JULY 1999)
In his book In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen writes that after 25 years in ministry, "I found myself praying poorly, living somewhat isolated from other people, and very much preoccupied with burning issues ... something inside was telling me that my success was putting my own soul in danger."
I'm very concerned about the souls of America's youth workers. Youth ministry here is precariously close to collapsing under the weight of its own success. We seem to be caught in the spell of a media-driven, techno-event culture that's dazzling the life out of us. We have a spectacular array of seminars, products, conventions, rallies, crusades, and programs that draw large crowds and make lots of noise-and we wait expectantly for the next spectacular array of events. Sadly, an increasing number of youth workers have opted for more instead of deep. All over the country, one youth ministry after another is becoming a monument to our charisma, a tribute to our technology, a testimony to our management skills ... and one more nail in the body of Jesus.
Our ministry staff meetings are more like management meetings than prayer meetings. We spend our time talking about how to relate to our new computer systems instead of talking about our relationships with Jesus. The modern senior pastor operates like a CEO instead of a spiritual director, mentor, or fellow struggler. Numbers, activities, and programs dominate our agendas, and we soon discover that in today's institutional church, mission statements, strategies, and results matter most. Efficiency and control rule. The bottom line is tangible growth. The youth minister's soul is irrelevant. Then we wake up one day with very successful youth programs, only to discover our success has cost us our souls.
A high-profile, parachurch youth ministry approached a veteran youth worker friend of mine and tossed her name in the hat for one of its executive openings. She was excited to be considered for the job and saw the position as a great place to launch a care program for the staff members' souls. In her interview, one executive told her, "I know you're passionate about our staff members and their relationships with God, but frankly, your job will cover a lot of responsibilities. I'm at the same level you'll be. In terms of my job description, helping staffers with their relationships with God is 27th on my list."
No youth ministry, church, or parachurch should survive if the condition of its youth minister's soul is 27th on the list. Today's youth ministry culture is consumed with doing rather than being. So many of us know what it means to believe in Jesus-but we don't know what it means to be with Jesus. We know how to talk about Jesus-but we don't know how to listen to Jesus talk to us. We're experts at doing youth work-but we don't know how to let God work in our hearts. We know much about saving souls-but we have no clue about soul making. We're comfortable with God's people-but uncomfortable when we're alone with God.
We've forgotten the real bottom line: Our souls. Let's reclaim them. Let's start with our relationships with Jesus. Let's start the new millennium by reaching inside our souls before we try to reach the world. Let's start at the feet of Jesus and go from there.
1. STAFF MEETINGS. Let's begin our pilgrimage with Jesus by changing the way we do business. Let's make intimacy with Jesus our business. Let's suggest to our church staffs that we spend the majority of our meeting times talking about our relationships with God. Let's spend that time praying and paying attention to what God is doing.
2. YOUTH STAFF. Instead of starting with what we're doing with the kids, let's spend our meetings talking about who we are to the kids. Maybe we can cut back on activities and spend more time together in silence and solitude so our young people can sense the presence of Christ in our staffs.
3. IRRELEVANCE. Think of all the hours you and your staffs spend programming. What if that time were spent being "irrelevant" by seeking God's presence, listening to God's voice, looking at God's beauty, tasting God's Word, and resting in him? Maybe in the frenzy of modern culture, the most relevant thing youth workers can do is cling to Jesus-so those who're scurrying from one cultural icon to another will trip over him on their way toward relevance.
It isn't easy to stay with Jesus in ministry ... but we must. Deep in our souls, he's whispering how much he loves us. If we'd just take the time to listen to those words and believe them, then our ministries would be gloriously ruined by Jesus-and our souls would no longer be in danger.
Excerpted from Getting Fired for the Glory of God by Mike Yaconelli
Copyright © 2008 by Karla Yaconelli. Excerpted by permission.
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