Last night I was messaged with a link to a news item on Premier. The headline is “Sunday’s can be devastating for church leaders” and the piece is written by Sam Hailes.
It appears Sam is quoting from Steve as he spoke at a dinner promoting his up coming seminar for church leaders on management and leadership (read the article here).
OK, so far so normal. Leadership in general and managing resources effectively are important topics. However, the quotes from Steve include some references to youth work and young people.
Well, I could not believe what I read. Here are some quotes,
“He said that church leaders who hire a youth worker as the first member of staff were mistaken”
“If you just scramble up the money to get another member of staff involved and hire a youth worker, that is the road to bankruptcy. The youth worker is going to go out spending money all over the place.”
“He said youth leaders will, “bring youth in who don’t have any money to tithe and smash the toilets up, contribute nothing, and use all the resources.””
I’m just going to look at each of these, firstly :
Hiring a Youth Worker. There are some great reasons to do this and some not so good ones, (you can read my article about employing youth, children’s and family workers here), but hiring them first is not a mistake! Many churches I have encountered are desperate to reach this generation, serving faithfully in their community they want someone with the skills, passion and experience to lead them in this area of work. It is not a mistake to make a youth worker the first appointment – in many cases, it would be a bigger mistake not to. A well employed youth worker will engage with the local area, get stuck in with local schools, raise the profile of the church and faith community. In my experience of helping churches take this step, there is often an increased sense of vision and purpose, and increased sense of hope and also, for many, a recognition that what they are investing in is about building for the future, engaging now with this generation of young people.
Spending Money All Over the Place. Most youth workers I know would laugh a bit at this. The ones I know who have a budget are tenacious and ingenious with making a little stretch and become a lot – from seeking out grants for pieces of work to heading to the local scrap bank for resources. “All over the place” also implies no thought is going in to what they are spending it on. I know many employed youth workers who subsidise their budgets from their own pockets because they believe in young people and want to provide them with opportunities and make a difference in their lives.
Young People – Contribute nothing and use all the resources. I’m not sure I have heard anything so shocking from a former youth worker. We don’t seek to work with, reach, engage with, love and care for young people in order for them to become “contributors” (i.e. what is the church going to get from doing this?) Loving and serving young people is about pouring ourselves out for them, being servants, offering acceptance, love, guidance and a place of significance in the faith community. This work, that so many do each week, is priceless! Young people also contribute so much – we don’t work with them to see what they might “gift” to the church. We work with young people because they are a gift to the church. Young people bring life, hope, passion, engagement, questions, laughter, challenges, fresh vision, joy . . . so much.
The church is not a business, but it is in the business of bringing life and hope through Jesus Christ. Youth workers are amazing, youth workers can lead a church into new areas of life and ministry, do not be put off by these comments from Steve and, if you already have a youth worker in your church . . . remember to encourage them this weekend and say thank you for all that they do.