By far, my favorite thing about the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta was Perry Noble’s message to youth workers. Perry spoke on Saturday morning and left most people in the room feeling encouraged, energized, and pumped up for youth ministry. Perry Noble is a 6’ 6” 230 lb. Senior Pastor from New Spring Church in South Carolina. He started off by making a joke about his southern drawl. He said that in heaven, everyone will have a southern drawl, if you don’t believe that, you may not be going to heaven!
Perry’s message was based out of Acts 20:7-12. I’ve spoken to a few different youth workers at the convention and have heard mixed reviews/feelings about this message. The reviews/feelings ranged from “he nailed it,” to “he took the passage and made it apply to his topic!” When someone takes a passage and make sit say what they want it to say, it is known as “eisegesis.” Eisegesis is when you put your own ideas into the text to make it mean whatever you want it to.
For the record, I do not know where I stand on this matter! I loved what Perry had to say but I am not a Bible scholar so I don’t know if it was eisegesis or not.
Anyway, regardless of how you interpret the passage and the message he gave us, it’s time to move on. Perry went on to tell us that he believes there is a breakdown in communication with youth pastors and the church in general. He and many others believe that youth pastors are viewed as glorified babysitters in that we are supposed to watch the kids, teach them a few things, and when they are old enough to attend big people church and tithe; then they matter to the church. This is not the case and it should never be viewed as such. Perry was not saying that this is the case in all churches, but it is definitely something that he has seen happen occasionally. But regardless of whether your church falls into either of these categories, an alarming statistic is that around 80% of students are walking out the door when they turn 18, and many of them are never going to come back!
Youth ministry is a hard and vital job. Most people will disagree with that, but that is because they have no idea what it means to be a youth pastor. They think we get paid to hang out and play video games all day, but that is 100% inaccurate. There are days when we go home from youth ministry and it isn’t “Thank you Jesus!” it’s “Help me Jesus!” Rest assured…there is hope! Perry said that we, as youth workers, are game changers. We work in the ripest harvest in the world and if we can get our minds (senior pastors, youth pastors, volunteers) around several of these soon to be mentioned concepts, we could see a revolution in youth ministry and the local church. When youth ministry catches on fire through the local church, nothing can stop it!!!!
Perry and many of the other speakers who were senior pastors were very much in support of youth workers. Perry has four prayers that he is praying for youth ministry. Those prayers are: For Attention, For Submission, For a Biblical Foundation, and For Stewardship.
In the Bible passage that Perry spoke from (Acts 20:7-12), Paul was speaking to a group of people late into the night (because he intended to leave the next day) and basically had a long message planned for them. There was a young man (a youth) sitting in a window seal in the back of the room who fell into a deep sleep as Paul was preaching. Eutychus fell to the ground from the third story and died. Yikes! Perry said that in this story, Eutychus fell out of the window because no one was paying attention to the youth ministry of that church. When a church refuses to pay attention to the youth ministry, kids fall out of the window and die (a.k.a. – leave the church and never look back) each and every day.
Youth ministry is important, not just for the teenagers but for also for the church as a whole. The youth aren’t the church of tomorrow, THEY MATTER TODAY! Perry said “The kids that we are called to ministry to matter today and the church better wake up and smell the Starbucks because if not, the kids will fall out of the back window and die.” Perry’s philosophy is that you can tell if a church is paying attention to the youth by looking at how much money they spend on them. He says that you can never spend too much on your youth and children. I understand the premise of what he was saying, but I don’t know if it applies to every circumstance. Some churches simply can’t afford to put a lot of money in the youth fund, and they could be the church that supports their youth way more than the church with the large youth fund. Money shouldn’t matter and shouldn’t be a deciding factor on whether or not a church is paying attention to their youth (my thoughts).
Perry does something cool in his church. I don’t think it would work at every church, but it is something to hope for I guess. Perry believes that a youth group should never be asked to do a fundraiser for anything. He doesn’t allow the youth group at his church to do fundraising because he believes that the church and the older people should support them to show that they care.
If we want attention in our youth ministries, we need to start reaching kids for Jesus and seeing lives change! If the adults come into the sanctuary and have no place to sit because of the youth, the older people will pay attention and take them seriously. The last thing that Perry said about this first prayer for youth is that we need to not bang the budget drum, but we need to bang the kids need Jesus drum and change their lives!
The way a youth group gets noticed in the church is when they are completely submitted and sold out to Jesus! Perry says that we need less strategy and more spirit in our youth ministries, and I couldn’t agree more! Not only do we need submitted and sold out youth, but we need leaders who are as well. When God asks us to do something unbelievable, we need to say “Yes Lord!” In the Bible passage, Paul was so submitted to Jesus that he was willing to declare the impossible (that Eutychus was alive). We need to have complete submission.
In order to be completely submitted to God, according to Perry, “you have to be you!” We shouldn’t have the desire to be someone else or do ministry as they do it because you think they’re better than you. When you do this, it is known as ministry envy. You can read a post of mine about ministry envy by clicking here. Perry says that the problem with churches today is that there is too much imitation and no more revelation. He also said that youth pastors have a disease that he invented called “destination disease.” Destination disease is when people in ministry want to be over there (at the other church/ministry) because they think it’ll be better there. This is not true though because you take you with you and it will be exactly the same. You are you!
When we get to the point where we get it all figured out in our ministry, God will say “you don’t need me? Fine…go ahead!” We need to be in complete submission to God. When we do this, it is unbelievable. Leadership is as easy as listening to God and doing what He says! Perry’s prayer is to have a generation of youth pastors and workers completely sold out for Jesus. We are the ones who set the pace for what youth ministry will look like in 10-20 years!
For a Biblical Foundation:
After Paul (with God’s help) brought Eutychus back to life, they went upstairs again and broke bread. Paul got carried away preaching, the youth died, Paul declared something supernatural and brings the kid to life, and then comes back up to keep the focus on Jesus. Paul never stopped focusing on Jesus or teaching about him. This is an example to us. We need to never quite proclaiming who Jesus is to students. They need to know who He is and it is our job to tell them. Some people think that if we focus on only Jesus, then we won’t be relevant. Perry says that we won’t be irrelevant, we will be impotent! We’ve watered our youth ministries down with these next three things and the kids don’t even know who Jesus is when they graduate from or leave our youth groups. 1. Morality – we teach our kids to be good…problem is, if we teach our kids not to watch rated R movies or listen to “bad” music, they can become morally superior to everyone and no one likes them…we can’t teach them to be moral without Jesus. 2. Compromise – Everyone gets caught up in this game. We think that if a lot of kids come to our group and we do all kinds of fun things, we have a great ministry. But in reality, we are compromising who Jesus is to have a great crowd show up. Sometimes, youth ministries let kids show up and say it’s ok to do what you are doing and not repent. When they do this, they are leaving Jesus out of the picture…allowing compromise to creep into that ministry. 3. Personal Agendas – Don’t ever let your personal agenda trump the Gospel! We make our own personal agendas the agenda of the youth group. If we put anything in front of the cross, it becomes an idol in our ministry. Let’s worship God in splendor and majesty rather than trying to boil him down to fit into our social agendas.
Perry’s prayer is that our prayer would be that we look at God and say “give me the ball…I’ll be hurt and play hurt, but I’ll do whatever it takes to push the ball down the field…I want the ball!” Perry said that in Acts 20:12, the youth ministry got brought back up and the church embraced stewardship…they said they want the ball.
We can do it, no matter how small our budget is. But if our attitude is that we want the ball, money doesn’t matter. It doesn’t happen because of lights, sound systems, looks, but because there is a sold out man and team saying give us the ball…and they are sold out for Jesus. Perry says that the senior pastor needs to make sure the youth ministry has everything they need and the youth pastor needs to sit down with his senior pastor and find out what his vision is…and then line up with that.
God’s plan is that youth ministry will thrive in the context of the local church to make a difference. When the church gets that right, it is on fire and is an unstoppable force!
Perry closed with the following comments:
“It’s always hard when we do what Jesus calls us to do. When we think it’s hard, may we think of Jesus hanging on the cross and bleeding! If no one else tells you this, I (Perry Noble) believe that you are the difference makers. Out of your ministries will be the next Billy Graham and other amazing church leaders! We will not fall…we want the ball!”