Yes. We have rough, unchurched or outreach students in our children and youth programs @ Hayward Wesleyan Church. These students often come with behavior problems and upset things from time to time. Yes, they do things that you wouldn’t normally expect from churched kids.
We make no mistake or apologies for allowing these students to attend. We believe that this engagement is exactly what God wants us to do and is particularly incarnational (meaning, what Jesus would be doing if He were in our shoes right now). While we do not mind dealing with issues that rise as a result of this kind of incarnational ministry, we are not naive about what it takes or what’s involved with the presence of these kind of students.
Uncomfortable things happen from time to time. Like:
- particular music tastes,
- and unsupervised time.
As a church youth ministry that seeks to keep the environment where minors are present safe and secure, we have to be on our toes all the time. We have to address things as we find them out with reconciliation and the Gospel as undergirding values. We have to model in action what we believe in word. We have to apply the Gospel. But rest assured: we do take care of these issues (we do have expectations).
hwcYouth might become known (or is already known) as a place that welcomes and engages with:
- gang members,
- pregnant teenagers,
- drug and alcohol users,
- ALL kinds of people from ALL kinds of backgrounds from ALL kinds of families.
We believe we are in good company (you know, Jesus’ company) if we attain this kind of moniker.
An unwelcome and frustrating result of this kind of incarnational ministry is a departure of “Christian” kids or churched students from the ministry (youth or children). The Gospel is always messy. Whether you are working with churched, unchurched, or any kind of adjective for that matter. You know it doesn’t matter what you call these students, good or bad or in-between kids, we all need the Gospel.
I firmly believe that youth ministry needs all categories of students. And I also believe that it is possible to minister effectively to all categories of students (church and unchurched). Why do I think this? Because we all need the Gospel to varying degrees.
Bad kids need to believe the Gospel for the first time and start living in surrender to God and His ethics. Youth ministry can uniquely and attractively bring the Gospel to bear in students’ lives and to their attention in groups (in community).
Good kids need to believe the Gospel for the 25th and 62nd time as it pervades their whole lives. Youth ministry can help families as they disciple their teens to work the Gospel through key areas of their developmental lives.
In-between kids need to believe the Gospel because they might not have really in their heart the first time, nor might they have an environment at home that helps them. Youth ministry (the church) get to spiritually parent these spiritual orphans.
A question I ask myself frequently is:
Do I really believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ here?
In youth ministry? In my personal life? As a husband? Father? Dog trainer? Friend?
This question (and it’s biblical answers) help me lead and minister effectively as well as live incarnationally no matter what kind of students God sends our way.