I can’t think of a good lead-in sentence, so I’ll just get straight to it: I love pie. It’s my favorite dessert. I like cookies, and cupcakes, and fudge, and all that other stuff, too, but pie is at the top of the list. I’m not particularly picky about the pies I consume either. Pumpkin pie, Sweet Potato pie, Apple, Pecan, etc…they’re all fantastic to me. However, I  would say creme pies are probably my favorite. I’ll take a coconut cream pie or chocolate cream pie over just about anything else you can offer me.

The only problem with cream pies, though, is that people have very different views on how much filling should go under that cream layer. I like to have some serious filling. I like to know I’ve eaten more than just air by the time I’m done. But not everyone feels that way. The trouble is, you can’t tell by looking at the pie how substantial it is. You have to cut it open and look inside to see it. And by then, that piece of pie may be sitting on your plate before you even realize that the pie is “all fluff and no stuff”; all cream and no filling.

Our Student Ministry can be exactly the same way. I was having this conversation with a minister in my church over lunch today. I’ve shared with you before that our youth group has a Mission and Vision statement. That’s not because we want to use a purely corporate model for our youth group (I don’t believe all aspects of corporate America translates well to the church). It’s because it gives us focus.

I explained to that minister that our Mission is to connect young people to God (salvation), connect them to each other (fellowship), and engage them in ministry now (service). I explained that everything we do must center around that mission, or we will not do it. He looked at me and asked, “Well, what else is there?”

Well, that’s the trouble. I think we can all agree that those things are what we want for our students. We may all package that statement a little differently, but that is what we are looking for. However, if we are not careful, we can find that , while we often have altruistic motives, we don’t always aim directly at those targets.

What about your last Youth Service? How much time did you spend working on making sure the artwork for the promos would be cutting edge? When you put your youth platform together, how much effort went into researching the best furniture, layout, lighting, and props? On the other hand, how much time went into praying for the lesson? Studying? Seeking God to anoint you to impact your students? Calling visitors and encouraging them? Texting that kid that missed Sunday and letting him know you love him and you missed him, and if he isn’t there next Sunday you’re going to break his arm off and beat him with it (just kidding!)?

Now, please understand…I want a cutting edge youth group, too. I like the cool lights. I work hard on our promo material. I think you should have a space your young people are proud to bring their friends to (if you need ideas on how to do that practically and on a budget, check out Brandon Shanks’ blog at http://www.brandonshanks.com). But is that the motive, or the method? Why did you have that “A” list speaker at your last youth revival? To change your students, or so you could name drop? Why did you have that awesome band at your last event? To draw your students closer to God and each other, or to say you had them?

Hopefully you understand I’m not trying to be ugly, but it’s a trap we all fall into. To be really transparent, I found myself there recently. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves “Am I doing all these things to prove we’re cutting edge, or to win souls?” Is being top-of-the-line the MOTIVE for what I do, or the METHOD for what I do? Simply put…is my Student Ministry all fluff, and no stuff?

There’s only one way to find out…we have to step down from the platform and dig into it. Just like that cream pie, we have to realize that the surface can be deceiving. You may look at the numbers and say “We’re growing.” Maybe so, but are your students changing? You have to “cut into” the pie to see. You have to peel back the layers, and be willing to dig down deep, objectively, and see the real story behind your motives.

Sometimes (as was my case at the beginning of the summer) we come to a point where we can’t even see that we’re missing it. That’s why we absolutely need to surround ourselves with men of God that we will allow to speak into our lives. They help us see what we can’t.

I want my students to leave our youth events and services “filled.” I don’t want them to leave unsatisfied, having tasted a little bit of fluffy topping, but not receiving anything substantial that will fill their souls. I pray God helps me to stay focused on that. And if you catch me drifting, call me out. We’re in this together!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s