Friday, January 06, 2012

A Church Planting Mindset in Youth Ministry

I read a great question on twitter the other day from Eric Bryant - who oversees the leadership team at Mosaic in Los Angeles (Eric is now a part of the team teaching and leading at Gateway Church in the Austin, TX area). He asked something to the effect of "If you were planting a church with the same number of people you have at your church and with your current income, what would you do?" I ponder this question on a couple different levels:

1. How would WestWay be different if we had a team of 300 church planters instead of 300 attenders? How would our system (the way things get done) have to change to support that kind of mentality? One of the things that I think would have to change is the under-utilization of gifts in the church. We need to do better at helping people maximize the gifts God is giving them. Instead of recruiting volunteers to fill the positions to maintain what we're already doing, we would channel energy into developing, empowering, and releasing leaders to do ministry as the church. (Also, I'm not sure a church planting team of 300 people would only be planting one church at a time!)

2. What if I really viewed the students and adults involved in the student ministry as a church planting team? Could we effectively plant a church within a church in a healthy way that doesn't just start separate churches for separate ages? Again, our system would need to shift from thinking about filling volunteer slots to unleashing creative leadership. Helping students identify and develop their gifts and channel their passion into Kingdom ventures would be vastly more important than talking more kids into going to camp every summer. The expectation of and dependence on God to be at work among us would have to be cultivated to become strong enough to quash the apathy that invades the soul of so much of youth culture... and that would be a very good thing.
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I originally wrote this post about 2 years ago. It keeps getting visits, so I wanted to update it a little bit, but as I started to do that, I began to evaluate as well. What's changed in the last 2 years?
- While adult attendance on Sundays has dropped lately, our Wed. night Middle School & High School group is 2 - 3 times larger in terms of attendance. The low count weeks are higher than previous highs. While there are still weeks when I feel like no one's paying a whole lot of attention (to me or to what God has to say that night), they're much less frequent.
- Students aren't just "bringing friends to youth group" but are actively sharing Christ with them outside of our organized meeting times/activities. But I wouldn't quite say they are passionately engaged in being a church planting group.
- There is a strong group of students that are committed to living by faith, but many of the students are still mostly concerned with their own little worlds. A lot of eyes & hearts are still pretty focused on themselves. We're not "there" yet...

And so, I continue to ask: If I were planting a church with the same number of people I currently have, what would I do? Have I really wrestled with this question deeply enough to have forged convictions that make a difference? How would things be different if I viewed my 50 - 60 students as a team of 50-60 church planters?

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