Interview Guide - Reclaiming the Lost Soul of Youth Ministry

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Book Overview 

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Reclaiming the Lost Soul of Youth Ministry focuses on doing two things:  Each chapter seeks to give an introduction to a Wesleyan value (whether from Theology, History, or both) and show its connection to the scripture.  From there, the chapters turn intensely practical exploring how these values direct decisions in youth ministry.  All of that is wrapped in interesting stories from the author’s life of successes and epic fails in trying to live out each value.

The first value explored is the clear message of God’s prevenient grace.  Once we realize that God extends his grace to everyone regardless of whether or not they believe in him, much of what we do in youth ministry is filled with spiritual potential.  Prevenient grace means that Lock-ins and fun outreach events are more than a way to get kids in the doors who do not normally attend.  Prevenient grace means these types of programs are opportunities to offer the grace of God to people who are not part of the Body of Christ.  

The goal is to create a program that is filed with a sense of fun and universal blessing.  It Means that those places are not the places for practical jokes or Bible drills because the focus is not on salvation or growing in holiness but in offering God’s wooing grace to the teens in your community.

Each chapter also offers insights for the personal life of the youth pastor.  If we are to live out these values in our programs, we should also be living them out in our own lives.  In the case of prevenient grace, it means that God calls us to be pastors wherever we are.  God calls us beyond the four walls of our church and beyond our regular attenders to offer the fullness of his grace to those who do not darken the doors of the church.  

However, we often miss this because we are not evaluated on how much ministry we do to people who never attend our church; nonetheless, if we are committed to prevenient grace, it demands more of us than another small group study on the donated lay-z-boys in the youth room.

Sample Interview Questions:

  1. In the introduction, you talk about why Wesley matters for youth ministry.  So, Why does Wesley matter?
  2. The book begins with talking about prevenient grace and lock-ins.  How on earth do you make that connection?
  3. In the midst of all the day to day tasks of youth ministry, why do people need to take time to consider the links you make between the theology and history of Wesley and how we reach teens in the 2000s?
  4. I was really interested in the last chapter (Bake sales that Change the World).  How do we make fundraisers a theological endeavor?

Memorable Quotes

“absolutely everything we do is touched by this pattern of life and theology. Every game, every sermon, every bus break- down is imbued with meaning, and that is why we are here.” (p.6)

“It turns out that God doesn’t hold back on people just because they are not following him. We believe that all human beings, whether they are following Jesus or not, are experiencing and being offered the fullness of God’s grace.” p. 12

“Too often we buy into the culture’s lie that sin is good and letting go of it is bad, difficult, or undesirable. We phrase our teaching in terms of “the hard climb up the hill” or “it’s worth it.” The reality is that sin is negative, evil, and destructive.” p. 48

“Too often the focus of youth programs is on getting laughs, making people cry, or keeping the attention of everyone there.” p. 55

“Putting our thoughts in the mouth of God is incredibly dangerous. Maybe God did tell you something while you were listening or sleeping, but what if that wasn’t God?” p. 85

“There is nothing wrong with questioning; in fact, it is one of the most important paths of growth in teens. Questions mean that they are engaging with their faith.” p. 112

“Too often, we select mission projects or ministries based on convenience or what we get out of them rather than our theology and beliefs about how ministry should be practiced.” p. 128

“What if, instead of doing all your car washes and bake sales to send a couple of kids to camp for free, you did a bake sale to free slaves or a car wash to stop malaria?” p. 144

Sample Story:

My hands were shaking a little bit as I walked up to the imposing facade of the big church in town. I was going to my first after-school Christian club worship meeting of my high school career. My nervousness did not subside when I entered the building. It was just like the lunchroom at school. It was full of people I didn’t know and all gathered into their predetermined cliques. Over in the corner closest to the pizza was most of the football team (they were unof- ficially required to come by their coach); not too far off were their cheerleader girlfriends; and on the other side was half of the marching band. I got some pizza, found a couple of friends, and waited until we were ushered into the youth room.

It began with a weird sort of practical joke where a visitor was sent out of the room and they made what appeared to be a three-seat-long couch by placing two chairs about a chair’s width apart, covering the whole setup with a sheetand having two of the cheerleaders sit on the chairs. The visitor was brought back in and asked to give his best pickup line to the cheerleaders, who offered him a seat in between them in the empty space hidden by the sheet. When he sat down, the girls stood up and the crowd erupted in laughter.

There were a couple more games that were a little less humiliating, followed up with a band that played all the right songs from camp and a couple of secular love-song covers that sounded like they could have a spiritual double meaning. By the end of the performance I was pretty sure that the lead singer had hooked two of the four girls that were standing in front of him staring bleary-eyed at his high school rock-star clothing and moves.

After that, there was a skit that I had seen a couple of weeks before on Saturday Night Live, which led somewhat awkwardly into the final act: the coach/speaker. He walked up with a Bible that was way more worn out than mine, and walked us through the four spiritual laws. I wasn’t sure why, but having someone preach at that point felt totally out of place. After his talk that was way longer than he had claimed it would be at the beginning, with every head bowed and eye closed, he asked those of us who wanted to be saved to raise our hands.

“There are hands going up all over the room,” he exclaimed much to my surprise. I couldn’t help myself. I figured I was concealed enough by the darkness of the back row to not be worried about getting caught peeking. I was as enraged as I was heartbroken. As he repeated some version of “I see that hand,” I scanned the crowd. There were no hands. Not a single one was going up even though this creep at the front was saying there was.

I left during the closing prayer, not sure what to do. When I got home one of my friends who was there calledme on the phone. When I answered, the first words out of his mouth were, “that was weird.” We talked for a while, trying to figure it out, and we came to the fact that it felt like someone had added a dose of spirituality to an above- average high school party. We weren’t sure how Christian club worship should be done, but this was not it.

(From Chapter 4 "Youth Worship Channel: The Means of Grace Unplugged")