In my youth ministry experience, I always find myself struggling with the tension of being a program-developer versus a spiritual guide.
The two are pretty different. They require very different skill-sets and gifts. They require different ways of thinking and acting. And they shape the way we are present to other people around us, both adults and young people.
Despite these differences, both types of leadership are needed in ministry. Young people need us to create and lead thoughtful programs. They benefit from our intentional shaping of an educational trajectory or a well-led mission trip. Just last night I had to plan some upcoming meetings and events for the youth ministry I lead as a volunteer, and to consider how to put other adults in place to carry out our goals. We need not demonize “programmatic youth ministry,” as I often hear myself and other leaders do in youth ministry.
I’m writing this in part to remind myself of this truth. Because I get much more excited about the other side of ministry that invites me to be a spiritual guide. Prayer retreats, one-on-one conversations, and guided reflection speak my love language.
Whether you’re like me or not, you might be interested in a new Spiritual Guide Intensive being launched by our friend Mark Yaconelli. We shared about some of Mark’s work in our recent series on spiritual practices here and here, and you can watch our webcast with Mark below. In this new venture, he’s opening up a pilot-tested three-month process for becoming a spiritual guide. The intensive will include an opening and closing retreat, weekly practices, weekly spiritual direction, online teaching, and consultation. It’s limited to 16 people and you can apply here if you’re interested.
Part of what inspires us about Mark is his relentless reminders that our primary gift to young people is our authentic presence. While we need all the other stuff to help us “do” youth ministry well, we must not forget to nurture the ministry of presence with the teenagers in our care.
How do you nurture the ministry of presence? Have you found helpful ways to balance the tensions of program-director vs spiritual guide? Share your ideas below in the comments.
Here’s a video of our webcast interview with Mark a few months ago at the beginning of Lent: