“In three years, I’ve aged a great deal. It seems as if the college days and the days of civilian life when I did as I pleased are long gone. It must have been a dream, a small, short, but beautiful part of my life. All I do is work to improve myself as an officer, and them as fighters and as men, make them work to improve themselves. As a result, I am old before my time. Not old physically, but hardened to the point where I can make the rest of them look like undeveloped high school boys. Old to the extent where I can keep going after my men fall over and go to sleep from exhaustion, and I can keep going like a mother who works on after her sick and exhausted child has fallen asleep. Old to the extent where if it's a decision or advice needed, my decisions are taken as if the wisdom behind them was infallible. Yes, I feel old and tired from training these men to the point where they are efficient fighters. I hope it means some will return to that girl back home.”
“I feel that God has been good enough to let me get through this war. As a result I am combat wise and ins a position to do some good to help a lot of men. I know I can do the job, better than or as well as any of the rest. How can I sit back and watch others take men out and get them killed because they don’t know; they don’t have it? Maybe I’ll get hurt or killed for my trouble, but so what if I can make it possible for many others to go home. Their mothers want them too, the same as mine. So what else can I do and still hold my own self respect as an officer and a man?”Especially in comparison to today’s society, where words like duty and responsibility are almost entirely foreign concepts, Winters’ character shines as an example to emulate.
- Colonel Robert Sink–39 (who seemed so incredibly old in the movie)
- Major Dick Winters–26
- Captain Lewis Nixon–25
- First Lieutenant Harry Welsh–25
- Captain Ronald Speirs–24
- Second Lieutenant Carwood Lipton–24
- Staff Sergeant Denver “Bull” Randleman–23
- First Lieutenant Lynn “Buck” Compton–22
- Sergeant Donald Malarkey–22
- Staff Sergeant Bill Guarnere–21
- Staff Sergeant Darrell “Shifty” Powers–21
Disclaimer: I have been involved in youth ministry in some fashion for almost ten years now, so the statements below are based on observations I have made during that time. That being said, I am in no way claiming to be an expert on youth ministry, and I am certainly not suggesting that I am a perfect (or even particularly good) youth minister. Below are a collection of humble opinions and suggestions based on personal experience. See Parts 1 and 2 of this series here and here.
In this last criticism, I am not referring to the idea held by some people that having a youth minister is inherently liberal,3 but rather the notion that youth ministers individually tend to be more liberal than the congregations that employ them, and thus, cause problems at those congregations.
Like I said above, this is a common criticism, and I’m sure it’s valid to a degree, but I think it tends to exaggerated a lot. Let me explain.
It makes a lot of sense for youth ministers to be a somewhat liberal group as a whole when you remember that, as a general rule, youth ministers tend to be young, and they also tend to be only a few years removed from an education at a Christian university (typically, people are more liberal when they are younger, and usually Christian universities are somewhat more liberal than are a lot of the congregations whose young people choose to attend them).
Nevertheless, if a congregation has done a good job in the interview process to find a youth minister that is a good fit for them, then really it shouldn’t be an issue—more liberal churches will have no problem accepting youth ministers with more liberal views, while more conservative congregations will avoid those candidates and instead hire someone whose views are more in line with their own.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if there is4 a huge problem of youth ministers being too liberal for the churches they work with, at least part of the blame should fall on the congregations who hired them in the first place when they obviously weren’t a very good fit.
The next (and hopefully last) post will close out the series with a few summary observations.
2I won’t put the terms in quotation marks from here on out because that would be annoying to read; just realize that I am making no attempt to actually define the terms, but am just using them in a general and relative sense.
4There is no doubt in my mind that there are multiple examples of guys who have come in with more liberal views, tried to bring change to the congregation they were working with and caused a great deal of damage in the process. Nevertheless, I don’t really think this is a common occurrence; it is certainly not true of the vast majority of the many youth ministers I have known and worked with.
Multiple studies have shown that evangelical teens leave the church at an alarming rate after they graduate high school,1 and it seems likely that at least part of this phenomenon can be attributed to problems with the way we do youth ministry.
On a regular Sunday at ___________ Church, the youth group meets for class in their special, isolated, youth room in the Family Life Center. After class they head out to the auditorium for worship where they sit with the other teens on the special youth group rows, and after services are over, they either stay where they are, visiting with friends, or rush back to the youth room to play ping pong/foosball/PS3.
On regular Sunday evenings, instead of meeting at the church building with ‘old people’, the youth group has a special Life Group where they meet in each other’s homes to have a devotional, sing a few songs, and then have a meal.
These are just on regular Sundays though, which don’t actually occur all that regularly, because the Youth Minister has made it a priority for the youth group to be gone to as many trips and youth rallies as possible on weekends, in addition to regular monthly Sunday night gatherings with teens from other youth groups (after all, it’s hard to keep teens excited about just going to ‘regular’ church).
On Wednesday nights, of course there is a special teen class in the youth room in the Family Life Center, and because this is such an important time during the week for the teens to fellowship with one another, they don’t come out after the Bible class period to spend time singing or having a devotional with the rest of the church family, but instead just stay in their room to have more time with one another.
Each week there will be a devotional at one of the teen’s homes.
In addition to youth rallies and weekend retreats, special activities include a ski trip over Christmas Break, a couple of church camps in the summer, and a short-term summer mission trip. All of these are primarily for teens, but there will be a few parents and maybe a youth deacon or two thrown in as chaperones.
The problem is, as often as ministers tend to move from one congregation to another, youth ministers seem to do so with even greater frequency. I’ve been working with the teens at Farmington continuously since May 2006 (since then my title has changed and my responsibilities have evolved and expanded somewhat, but still, my foremost priority has been working with the young people). That’s a time period of a less than six years, but of the 12-15 Churches of Christ that I am aware of in Northwest Arkansas, only one has employed the same youth minister for that entire time.
Now that’s just one person’s anecdotal evidence, but it certainly seems to support the generalization. So why do youth ministers leave congregations so quickly?
Of course, there are a lot of reasons, and youth ministers shouldn’t be blamed for some of them. Sometimes clashes with an eldership or an “important” family will lead to a job transition that is entirely out of the youth minister’s hands. Sometimes a youth minister will transition into a different ministry role at the same congregation because it is what the church needs most. Sometimes youth ministers just get completely burned out and need a career change.2
But often, reasons for leaving aren’t as good. A lot of times youth ministers show up on the job with big plans and new ideas, and then get frustrated when things don’t quickly turn out exactly as they planned. Rather than stay, put down roots, and work to gradually make things better, they are enticed by the greener pastures of a higher salary or a larger congregation.
I don’t claim to know what the answer is, and I don’t know if Anderson’s figure of seven years is appropriate for youth ministers or not. I do know it is difficult for those teens who have to adjust to 2-3 youth ministers in their 6-7 years in the youth group, and that they feel somewhat abandoned each time they have to deal with a youth minister leaving. I also know that remaining at the same congregation for as long as I have has reaped rewards for me, as I am more trusted by the congregation now than I was when I first came, and as a result, am more able to implement new programs and ideas.
I know this is an idea that a lot of church members have, but really, I hear this said (or more often, implied) most by commonly by other ministers. A lot of preachers who spend hours and hours in the church office each week studying for Bible classes and sermons get frustrated when the youth ministers they work with are never around.
Certainly, I think it’s true that youth ministers spend less time in the office than pulpit ministers do, and I know from personal experience that if I call a church office trying to get in touch with a youth minister, it is more likely that I’ll end up speaking to a secretary who has no clue to the youth minister’s whereabouts than to the youth minister himself. But like a lot of areas in life, I think it’s important to avoid extremes when thinking about how often a youth minister should be in the office.
On one hand, if youth ministers are supposed to focus largely on mentoring, teaching, and working with teenagers, it doesn’t make too much sense for them to spend 40 hours a week in an office where no teenagers are present. Besides, it’s not like work can only happen in an office: just because youth events can be enjoyable doesn’t mean that they don’t also require a lot of work, and it doesn’t seem fair to require a youth minister to be in the office for 40 hours if you also expect him to spend a lot of nights and weekends at youth events.3
Fortunately, most churches (including, thankfully, my own) realize this and allow their youth minister to have a relatively flexible office schedule. Unfortunately, some youth ministers take advantage of this, gradually spending less and less time in the office until they reach a point where you never know when to expect them.
I think it’s important for a youth minister to work out a regular office schedule where, barring some unusual occurrence, other people can expect to find him there. The number of hours may vary from church to church, but it’s important for people to be able to get a hold of you, and since, as a minister, you are a visible part of the leadership of the congregation, it’s important for people who stop by to at least occasionally be able to see you.
This post has quickly become longer than I originally intended, so I think I’ll divide it in half and post two other criticisms later. In the meantime, what do you think? I know these are criticisms that are made, because I’ve heard them myself…do you think they’re valid?
Powerful words from F. F. Bruce on John 3.16:
“If there is one sentence more than another which sums up the message of the Fourth Gospel, it is this. The love of God is limitless; it embraces all mankind. No sacrifice was too great to bring its unmeasured intensity home to men and women: the best that God had to give, he gave—his only Son, his well-beloved. Nor was it for one nation or group that he was given: he was given so that all, without distinction or exception, who repose their faith on him might be rescued from destruction and blessed with the life that is life indeed. The gospel of salvation and life has its source in the love of God.”
—The Gospel of John, by F. F. Bruce, pp. 89-90
“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
- Jesus spoke of the events of Jonah as if they were historic when He knew they were not, in which case He was being deceptive (McGarvey makes this point especially well).
- Jesus spoke of the events of Jonah as if they were historic because He thought they were, but was mistaken. This position raises lots of questions about the nature of Jesus and the knowledge He possessed while on earth (these are questions which are easily dismissed by a lot of liberal scholars today who question or reject the divinity of Christ, but would not be as easily dismissed by the less radical scholars McGarvey was addressing in Jesus and Jonah).
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