Twenty. Five. Years. Wow.
It started with a deep gut feeling that there was “more” to youth ministry. I was so young back then and so young in youth ministry but I still felt that there was “more” out there. On that night in June 1983 in Alexandria, Minnesota, that “more” led me to a time of seeking which led to a download of plans in my brain. That “more” was further satiated by a song off an album my brother gave me for Christmas 1987—The Wild Frontier by Randy Stonehill. (Note: Steven Curtis Chapman had a similar song out a year or so after that Stonehill album with a similar message—The Great Adventure. That song also sung to my spirit but I’m not much of a Steven Curtis Chapman fan.)
Then the time finally came when I could kick off these nebulous ideas in January 1990. What a ride it has been! When you seek for that “more” you can only expect to go on a ride. Bravery leads you to get on that ride. It has been a great adventure. Though rarely comfortable. Seeking “more” cannot be comfortable.
I know. Because I’m still not comfortable. It’s just a different idea I’m wrestling with these days.
These early wrestling days led to CFBYM or Church Family Based Youth Ministry. I first wrote about it in 1993. I finally put it into practice at my church in 1999. What a ride it has been! And all good. The Wild Frontier page is loaded with those thoughts and ideas and results and Moms & Pops Stuff will continue to be published as a tool for youth workers to give parents to help them in passing along their faith to their teens.
Doug Fields recently wrote an article for Youthworker Journal briefing this journey”
“Along the way in this journey, I’ve experienced different phases of thinking and practice as they relate to youth and their families. For example:
- “Parents are the enemy: In this phase, I believed that parents hindered my ministry because they often prevented their kids from attending ministry events. The underlining thought was, ‘If they’d leave us alone, we’d get more discipleship done.’ Tragic thought.
- “The and-family add on: In this era, youth ministry thought leaders began to emphasize the importance of ministering to families, and instead of being given additional resources or training, we were given new titles. The expectation of family ministry was added to our job descriptions, and our titles changed from youth pastor to pastor to youth and families.
- “Family as a given: Today, if you’re doing youth ministry without thought or strategy to engage the family, you’re still playing youth ministry at the kids’ table. The family conversation is loud, it’s falling on receptive ears, and it is gaining traction.”
I love that it is gaining traction. This is good.
For a good read, read this article in its entirety. He offers good practical tips to connect better with parents.
Crazy small fact: Doug Fields and I are the same age and have been in youth ministry for the same length of time. But I think I look much much younger than him.
There is much to look back on in the 25 years of Wild Frontier. But I’m going to look forward. When you are “out there” there is not much time to look back. And like I’ve already bragged, the Wild Frontier page is full of what we’ve done.
Something different is brewing in me these days. I’m still active in youth ministry at my local church. But I’m also regularly talking to former teens who are now in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. These are the ones who are inspiring me for the “more” that is coming. It is exciting. Though I can’t wrap it into a form yet. Wrestling will get “it” there. Hopefully soon. It is exciting.
After 25 years I can say this confidently—the Wild Frontier mindset is alive and well. It is a mindset that there is something more out there than what is normal or what is within human limitations. Only the brave dare to have this mindset. The brave dare to be vulnerable. The brave learn to recognize and expose numbing behaviors so that bravery can now be what defines our lives. And vulnerability is the beginning of hope.
This will continue to be my life. How about you?