I intend to continue my series on building a student-led youth ministry in the near future, but today’s breaking news sparked some interesting thoughts in my mind, and I’m hoping it does the same for you.
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the death of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Unlike most faceless heads of major corporations, Jobs was undoubtedly the heart and soul of the Apple company. He was visionary. He was innovative. He challenged the status quo. He completely reinvented the way we approach media. For all of these things, he will, and should, be remembered as one of the greatest minds who ever pursued the American Dream.
I started thinking, though…what will he mean to my kids? When they learn about him in school, what will they learn? How will he be remembered. Obviously, as creative and innovative, as bold and courageous, but what else? Let me ask you…do you remember who invented the cassette tape? I doubt it, but it was certainly innovative for it’s time. The real question is years from now when the iPhone is in a museum next to the rotary phone, will people even remember him?
Innovation is valuable. Keeping things fresh and creative is essential. As a matter of fact, some people have made it the central focus of the Student Ministry. I think some people would actually consider Steve to be the perfect Student Pastor candidate. I mean…can you imagine the possibilities? The stage would be cutting-edge. The lighting would be sleek and modern. He would have a jaw-dropping youth logo. The video and promo work for his lesson series would be stunning. His events would be world class. Other Student Pastors worldwide would constantly be dialed in to his blog, his podcast, or whatever else he produced.
Tell me though…do all of these things equal success? Now, certainly as Student Pastors we should strive to be relevant. Relevant is not a bad word (don’t forget…the opposite of relevant is irrelevant!). I’m not against videos, graphics, great stage decorations, etc. As a matter of fact, any Student Pastor who has the creative ability to do those things and do them well but doesn’t is doing his students a disservice. The kingdom of God is not built by being lazy and taking shortcuts.
But is innovation and creativity the key to a successful student ministry? Is that really what our students are looking for? Sure, it may attract them initially, and that alone makes the endeavor worth it, but does it keep them? At our Florida District youth camps, I sometimes get into conversations with young people who will bring up their Student Pastors. When I ask what those students like most about their Student Pastor, the answer is almost always the same. Not one teen has said “He’s so creative,” or “He comes up with the best videos,” or “He came up with this innovative event that just rocked my world.” Nope, every time the response is “He’s always there when I need him; I can talk to him about anything.”
At the end of the day, your students don’t need Steve Jobs; they need Jesus Christ. Jesus was innovative. He was the definition of counter-culture. But at the end of the day, He was more focused on relationships than anything else. It’s a good thing Steve Jobs stuck to the whole iThing, because he probably wouldn’t have made a good Student Pastor. You, on the other hand…you’ve got exactly what it takes.