What would it mean to envision youth ministry as healing and restoration—to see youth ministry as grounded in a theology of restoration between oneself and God, others, and even the cosmos? The youth worker in this understanding would accept the role of holistic healer, participating as an agent in God’s movement of restoration in a broken world. Further, the youth worker would see herself as called to equip others (youth, parents, congregation, etc.) to discern and live into her own vocation as an agent of God’s movement of restoration and healing.
To accept our role as agents of God’s healing is to acknowledge that there is real brokenness in the lives of young people that requires healing. (Note: Too often in the church today, we “pastor” adults, but “program” for youth, assuming that teens are resilient and will simply “bounce back” from life’s troubles.) The brokenness of youth can keep them from seeing their own call and vocation within the mission of the church. The call of the youth pastor as agent of healing is to help youth name their brokenness: that which is the result of their own mistakes and that which is the result of injury brought upon them by another (e.g. bullying, abuse, war, violence). Areas of healing could include physical, emotional, psychological, relational, and sexual healing. The model for this ministry is Jesus himself and his own ministry of physical touch and spiritual restoration.
The youth worker cannot effectively serve in this role as agent of God’s healing and restoration without first acknowledging his or her own brokenness and experiences of healing and restoration. It may be important to challenge youth workers to consider their own motivation for entering youth ministry. Are they motivated by a need to “heal” others? Are they motivated by an experience of brokenness they have yet to acknowledge? Bundled within this discussion is the important issue of boundaries and safe church practices. Do they impede or enable our ability to serve in a minisry of healing and restoration?
Implications for training and education:
Train and Educate:
CYMT is proud to announce the expansion of our original initiative into Theology Together 2.0. CYMT aims to develop a curriculum to be used in local congregations and ministries. Taking what we have learned about engaging youth in deep theological reflection during missional experiences and embedding those processes into congregational youth ministries.
"I hope students come away from my courses with the ability to think more deeply, richly and theologically about their youth ministry practice. I think a lot of what happens in youth ministry happens unreflectively and can be deforming to young people, and my courses are intended to give students a theological framework for evaluating and reforming their youth ministry practice."
Of course, I want students to drink deeply from the academic readings, lectures and discussions, and I want them to be informed by the academics. But more than that, I want them to see that youth ministry is a calling of God, an important part of God’s mission in the world, one that should give them pride and evoke humility at the same time.