Monday, January 19, 2009

Travis Deans is resigning from Youth Ministry

I've been doing youth ministry for twelve years now (that's me this past Saturday) and every so often, usually a couple times a year, I start asking myself "Why am I doing this?", "What is it that I'm really supposed to be doing here?", "Why don't I go get a real job flippin' burgers or something?" I have to admit, discouragement creeps in at times! The pay is not good, things never go like you plan them to, people don't often see the "vital" importance of what we do, and youth ministry feels a lot like herding cats. Why should I keep doing this stuff?

Well, when those dark moods come over me, four big ideas keep bringing me back into focus...

1) "The local church is the hope of the world" - Bill Hybels

Of all our nations' institutions, the church offers something very unique. Schools provide education, doctors provide medication, hospitals provide operations, government provides legislation, prisons provide incarceration, but only the church offers transformation of the human heart through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, I believe with all my heart that every church needs a healthy, growing youth ministry - because every teenagers needs Jesus and a church family.

2) "When God looks at a city, he does not see many churches, He sees one church in many congregations." - Ed Silvoso

For the past four hundred years churches have been competing with each other. The splintering of the body of Christ into thousands of pieces has been a long, sad story. I believe passionately that someday the church will move away from competing against each other to completing each other - realizing that no one church/denomination is the whole body and that we will never fulfill the great commission alone. We must work together! Some competition is good to challenge us and keep us from becoming mediocre, but we need to see churches communicating with each other, cooperating with each other and completing each other in building the Kingdom. Therefore, I believe that every community needs a network of church youth ministries - because we can do this better when we do it together! Here's an article I wrote three years ago called "From Competing to Completing" if you'd like to read more about this idea.

3) "Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." - C.T. Studd

All missionaries have known for centuries that to reach a group of people you have to go where they are and the group of people that youth pastors want to reach spend most of their time all together in one place - school. Kids spend five days a week, 180 days a year, 7 or 8 hours a day (or more if they're in any kind of activity) at school. And all of our churches have students in public schools - what happens at local schools affects all of our kids. Therefore, I'm convinced that every school needs reached by a network of churches. When youth pastors/youth leaders come together one of big questions should be, "What can we do together to serve our local schools and to reach students in that place?" A youth pastor named Mark Moder observed in article called "Where Students Are" that if we are called to be fishers of men, we should remember that fish swim in schools.

4) "If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for." - C H Spurgeon

I love this quote - it just reminds me that we can never say "we have a lot of people in our church, that's good enough". Every person needs to hear about Jesus. I believe passionately that every students needs an opportunity to hear about Jesus and to get connected with a local church. There are 50,000 teenagers in this part of southwestern Pennsylvania - that's serious job security - I'm never going to run out of work here!

So, no, I'm definitely not resigning from youth ministry. I have four great reasons to get out of bed every morning and to keep doing what I'm doing. Most of all, I want to do it because Jesus loves me and calls me to follow Him no matter how hard it is, no matter what happens. Jesus is worth it all. Sometimes I just need to remind myself what this is all about. I have to say a big "Thank You!" to my wife, Judy, who keeps encouraging to do this and to my partner in Teens For Christ, Pete Malik, who helped me find God's calling for my life. And I thank you to for letting me express my heart to you in this post.

Youth Ministry Consultations

This past Saturday, Pete Malik and I had the privilege of doing a youth ministry consultation with members of Mill Run United Methodist Church who want to start a youth ministry at their church. In these consultations, we talk about building a youth ministry image, structure, and substance. The substance, which is communicating God's truth to see students' lives transformed, is what we want to get to, but the image/structure aspects of youth ministry help us get there. If your church's youth ministry needs a little shot in the arm or maybe a complete overhaul, let us know. We would love to come and help. The great thing about this meeting is that the guy who contacted us about meeting with them was part of our ministry when he was a teenager twenty years ago. Now he'll be doing youth ministry. It's amazing how things come full circle!

Fayette County Youth Pastors working on 3 projects

Youth Pastors in Fayette County are working together on three different projects - 1) iPromise semi-formal purity event for students, 2) 3V school assemblies and outreach, and 3) Benefit concert for Africa. This group of youth leaders did three youth events together this past fall as well. After not having a youth network in Fayette County for two years, the 2008-2009 school year is turning into an amazing time. The iPromise event scheduled to take place on February 21st, 2009 will be similar to True Love Waits events we used to do, but with some clever new twists. We love working with these great youth leaders!

Youth Pastors Summit - January 2009

On January 8th, 2009 youth pastors from around Westmoreland County gathered together to connect with each other and to do a little thinking about what we can do together to reach teenagers in Westmoreland County for Christ. There are 35,000 students in this county and we need to work together to reach them. Pictured here are youth pastors from Murrysville, Greensburg, Derry, Ligonier, and New Stanton. Just these ten youth pastors probably have at least 1000 teenagers that they have some kind of connection with. What powerful potential each one has, and what greater potential we all have when we work together!