From insurance requirements to background checks to safe volunteer training, church safety is a big deal these days. There are many resources available to help us keep our students safe and protect ourselves and other youth leaders. In all our mitigation of danger, I wonder if we’re missing something; Are we losing out on a critical component of discipleship?
Risk breeds trust. Whether it’s trust in my ability to escape or in someone else’s ability to rescue, when I risk, I also trust. If we could structure risk appropriately in youth ministry (not eliminate it altogether), could we not breed a deeper trust of God to lead the lives of young disciples?
Young Hebrew men such as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego trusted God to rescue them. Daniel maintained a risky devotion to God, and Joseph went from one undesired risk to another. They lived trusting that God knew what was going on and could work it out.
How do we raise a generation of Daniels in a risk-averse environment? Will we ever see God rescue our Shadrachs and Abednegos if we keep putting out all the fires that may singe them? Are there appropriate ways we can raise the level of risk in our ministry to boys that would help us develop more potent disciples?
Here are some ideas that have raised the risk in my ministry.
1. Backpacking/Climbing Trip
Since I began in youth ministry in 1999, one of the most spiritually significant events for my students has been a backpacking week in the Rockies. I was able to connect with a great group out of Laramie, Wy., called Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries (SROM.org) for five days of climbing, hiking and sleeping under the stars. Being in an environment where risk was so imminent caused us to be more aware of what was going on around us. That mentality has carried over into a vigilance toward paying attention to God working all around us.
2. Coldwater Mission
Pack a van full of kids and supplies you may or may not end up needing, have them write numbers (representing a distance to travel) on a piece of paper that will be drawn from a bag, spin a game spinner to decide which direction to go, then go offer cups of cold water wherever you end up. The risk of a ministry trip to an unknown location such as this creates an excitement and expectancy for God to lead us and provide what we need to do what He wants done. As we walked through a tiny little town at the end of our random distance and direction, we prayed for God to show us some way we could be His hands and feet in that place. He did.
3. Kingdom Worker Cards
CIY (CIY.com) is a great youth ministry organization that does conferences that challenge students to live fully for the kingdom of Christ. In seeking to go beyond the event, they have produced what they call Kingdom Worker Cards. Each student, at the end of the week, is given a small envelope with a card inside. Written on each card is a very specific ongoing assignment the student agrees to do before opening the envelope. If he or she won’t commit, he or she can’t open the envelope. That’s the kind of risk I want to teach my students to take–a willingness to take a God-directed step even when they don’t know what that step might require.
4. Let Them Lead
This is often as much of a risk to you, the youth leader, as it is to the students; but what are we teaching our students when everything in youth ministry is led by us? A couple students came to me a few months ago wanting “to start doing something on Tuesday nights.” I couldn’t be there on Tuesdays, but that didn’t mean the need they saw and the solution they envisioned couldn’t happen. It just meant it was up to them and God–not just me and God–to get it done. If they fail, guess who looks bad? Me. That’s a risk we need to be willing to take when our students want to follow God’s heart for their peers.
Mike Andrews has been risking his own comfort since he turned down an insane scholarship offer to get married, attend Nebraska Christian College, and pursue youth ministry; 17 years later, he’s still not playing it safe as the father of four and youth pastor in western Nebraska. Mike blogs recklessly atTheoQuest.Blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter.com/6drews.