I am of the firm belief that we should take the position of Youth Director in the ELCA hit it with a shovel in the back of the head and bury it. It no longer does the Church any good to look for a “youth director” in order to provide the inadequate forms youth ministry we have come to love.
Instead, I think we should be looking for Youth Ministers (that are missionally focused).
What’s the difference between Youth Minister and Youth Director you may ask? Now, before I answer that, some may be thinking, it’s just a title. It’s semantics. It doesn’t matter if we call them Director, Minister……TomAYto-TamAWto. Their just the people who do the work with the young ones. Right?
Well, here’s the difference as I see it.
When one hears the title director several images come to mind.
Cruise Director, Director of Fun (at camp), Preschool Director, Director of a board, Operations Director, Movie Director…………Catch my drift.
None of these jobs has the same focus that someone working in youth ministry should have. When we hear the title-youth director, we immediately begin to think of someone who takes care of the youth, provides them with fun games, keeps them busy until they are no longer youth and can be a part of the “real” ministry of the church. The youth director’s job is to manage the youth ministry “program.” To this I call-B.S.
We would never think of having an Elderly Director (a person who visits the homebound and institutionalized), instead we call them the Visitation Minister. Moreover, we would never give the title to the person who is called to Word and Sacrament in the church–Sacrament Director. Yet, somehow we think it is completely appropriate to give this title to the person who works with young people.
I have seen both at work and have come to realize that the Youth Minister has a completely different mindset then the Youth Director.
The Youth Minister’s job is to walk with young people. Like a cultural anthropologist, the Youth Minster is called to learn the the cultures of youth in their church and surrounding community (Yes, I said cultures…..There is no single youth culture). They are called to study the language, dress, stories, values, music, and modes of communication. They do this all the while realizing that they are a foreigner, even though they at one time they where not. Youth cultures, are always shifting and therefore once we where indigenous, but now we are outsiders. We are called to be missionaries to young people because we are not coming from the same starting point, and it is unfair first to change their starting point to ours before ministry can happen.
The Youth Minister understands that any programatic elements that the church sponsors serve the general philosophy that the Youth Minister is in fact a missionary. Therefore, programatic elements of the Youth Minister’s job should be allowed to be reformed, die, or be moved off the church’s campus.
The Youth Minister provides space for young people to be authentic in order to show them where God is already at work in their lives. With this is also the call to the Good News of the Kingdom of God. This comes with the additional responsibility of identifying young people’s spiritual practices and helping them incorporate even more practices from the Ancient faith to which they belong.
In all the job of the person who works with youth in the congregation is to be a missionary and minister of the Gospel of Jesus which is completely person not program focused.