Like many of you out there, I don’t have the privilege of my passion and my profession being one and the same. Yes, I’m among the ranks of what we call the “bi-vocational youth worker.” I won’t insult full-time Student Pastors by saying “I have a real job.” Their job is a real job, too. And if I was honest with myself…I’d have to say I’d love to have their job. But, of course, I’m digressing.

So I work for a major corporation, and there’s nothing a major corporation enjoys more than a good program. As a matter of fact, most corporation has an entire infrastructure built to support programs: the design of programs, the marketing of programs, the implementation of programs, the maintenance of programs…basically, they have the programs thing down pat.

The great thing about programs is, they’re easy. You design a template that is successful, and you recreate it with slight variances that represent the nuances of whatever program you are implementing. If you give me the right documents, and a fair amount of time, I can create a program around anything you’d like.

In the corporate world programs work great, because the driving force is the dollar. At the end of the day, it’s all about revenue generation. It’s easy to see if the program is successful. If revenue increases, the program worked. If not, oh well, try again.

It’s been popular in Student Ministry for years (most likely perpetuated by guys like me who deal with programs all-day-every-day in the office) to try to recreate these methods in the church. Don’t have enough visitors showing up? Let’s develop an outreach program! So a theme is developed, promotional material is made, giveaways are given out, a band is booked, etc. etc. And what do you know…we get more visitors in! Program successful! Or is it?

Because really, the question is this…how many stuck? How many received the Holy Ghost? How many are still attending church two months from now? How many sincerely made a connection with Jesus Christ?

Please understand, I’m not completely opposed to programs; there are times when they are necessary. I’m just opposed to them being the gold standard for running our youth programs. We can’t allow the method to be come the message. I don’t ever want to lose to process in the program.

You see, we have to remember that connecting a student to Christ is a process. You connect them to yourself. You help them see Christ in you by demonstrating interest and concern for what’s going on in their lives, and find a way to meet them on that level. You connect them to other young people in your group so they can see the power of the Holy Ghost practically demonstrated in people their age. You connect them to the church by helping them find a place in this new community.

All of that is pretty complicated. Each kid is different. Each young person is affected differently by your approaches, and it requires constant adjustments to be able to really minister to each one of them. But that’s really the point. Jesus certainly didn’t come to create a program. He was relational. He got down and dirty with the people he met. He got to know them personally, learned what made them tick, and reached them there.

At the end of the day, our purpose is to see the lives of our students forever changed as they commit themselves to Jesus Christ. Programs may help with that, but they can’t make it happen totally on their own. No, it requires a process to change a young person. I want to be part of that process.

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