ministry consumerism

my mail today consisted of nine different opportunities for me to involve my kids in some “ministry opportunity” that is going to change their lives, or change the way they view GOD, or shape them into leaders who will change the world. all i have to do is shell out $265 for the conference fee or $99.95 for the leader’s pack or $350 for the whitewater camp experience. it’s really that easy? all i have to do is bring or buy something for my youth and the youth ministry has accomplished it’s goal? all of the offers came with outstanding advertisements. the promotional materials were full of great testimonies from other ministers who had been smart enough and sensitive enough to the SPIRIT to take their kids to these programs or use the right material. the ads were full of pictures of cool looking teens having a great time. it was all hip, cool, and definitely appealing.

it all made me sick.

how much do we spend in promotion to get out the message that our standards are no different from the world’s? the contents of my mail showed the truth. the advertisements and promo packs told the story of what we really think is valuable. we value flash. this is why our churches are so busy going to national programs rather than doing things together, locally, relationally. this is why our kids are convinced they must have an “experience.” if they didn’t have an “experience” then it was a trip or event that GOD was a part of it? rather than us growing closer and closer by being in the whole process together we sell out and just take our teens to things.

we “ministers” really like to buy into all this stuff. we love the “big events” just as much as the kids. we love the hype, the great “summary” videos, the t-shirts, and crap. we buy right into it all. i know i do. give me some free stuff and i think much better of you. free stuff dismisses allot of my questions. i’m such a whore.

i’m really not opposed to all the “big things.” i think they have their place. i think they can be great tools. but that’s all they are … tools. they’re not ministry. they’re events. the real ministry takes place in the youth ministries that bring the kids to the “big events” and are there when the real problems of life occur. that’s the important stuff.

i just hope i can remember that next time i’m given some cool camp item for free.

3 Replies to “ministry consumerism”

  1. Wow! Someone actually reads that junk mail? The secretary has finally figured out to just toss that stuff direct to the recycle bin rather than stuff my box with it. Now, if I can just get her to stop forwarding me email from Dobson… 🙂

  2. so, let me get this right…for a free t-shirt you can put aside your feelings of “ministry consumerism” and pay attention to the flash and programs?

    let me ask this. as a true believer in the fact that what we are providing is a tool and not ministry, how do we continue to improve our tool in light of so many “big events” with flashing lights, bands, merchandise, and free t-shirts for whoring youth leaders?

  3. to answer you question on whether i really put aside my principles just for a free t-shirt – the answer is “not usually” but if the t-shirt is really cool it’s tempting. 🙂

    personally i’m glad you think of your program as a tool. i really think that’s the key. tools can be used within ministry. the problem i have is two fold: 1) too many programs that aren’t tools but rather view themselves as GOD’s answer to real ministry – i’ve been around way too many camps and program personnel who not so subtly convey, and sometimes voice, that if you are not in their program you are outside of GOD’s will or simply not as spiritual as they are. 2) i believe there are far too many churches who will gladly reduce their ministry to merely taking their kids to the next event. their whole ministry is nothing more than preparing for the next trip to a program that someone else is doing. these churches don’t grow servants or leaders. they develop bus drivers & chaperones. those programs & events can be great places for kids to make decisions and learn things but the program personnel won’t be around when the teens face their parents announce they are getting a divorce or a kid dies in school.

    in my opinion, the answer to this is to make helping youth within a ministry connect with each other during your camp. camps & workcamps can be great places for the youth within a group to really connect with each other. yet many times the schedule is so full of other things that keep kids separate from their group that they never actually have any time to connect and make memories with their own youth ministry. i believe you have to make lots of time for youth ministries to be able to build memories that will unite them. this is why one of the things my teens enjoy the most from the camps and workcamps we do is the bus ride there and back. often that bus ride is the best part of the trip for connecting new people with the “regulars” of out youth ministry. i know some camps and programs pay “lip service” to uniting groups but the only time they actually schedule for a group to be with each other is the “group devo” at night that only last 15 minutes and is usually canceled because the worship service went 30 minutes late.

    i don’t know your ministry but i’m glad y’all have a “tool” mentality. “tools” are very useful. in my opinion programs and flash on the other hand merely place unrealistic models of church within teens’ minds and therefore reduce the likelihood of them continuing in the faith past their youth ministry years.

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