Thursday, July 9, 2020

Why Vision is Important for Youth Ministry

Two weeks ago we reflected on the fact that we have officially passed the halfway mark of the year and that it was a fitting time to revisit our church’s vision and mission for 2020. Such a topic is worthy of a deeper dive, especially within the context of Covid-19 and our youth and young adult ministries. Let us unpack this concept further on how you can reframe your church’s vision under your current context.

The Church’s Vision and the Weekly Sermon
James Kouzes and Barry Posner both masterfully unpack the process of vision casting in their book The Leadership Challenge, explaining that a vision “must appeal to all who have a stake in it. Only shared visions have the magnetic power to sustain commitment over time…It has to be a cause, something meaningful, and something that makes a difference in people’s lives.”  In other words, the vision must trigger an emotional response that allows churchgoers to become a part of something bigger than themselves. While there may be world or local events that require us to momentarily break away from the year’s vision, straying from the vision too often may extinguish the fire you had ignited within your congregants’ hearts, way back in January. The ebbs and flows of the culture’s tidal waves become the directional force behind the church’s preaching schedule. Instead of precise maneuvers that confidently advances the community toward a desired end goal, sermons can end up feeling like haphazard attempts to hit a moving target. Under this scenario, churchgoers find themselves relegated to the role of spectator instead of being fully immersed within the church’s vision. If your congregants aren’t feeling emotionally involved after the word of God is preached, then it may be possible that your church’s vision isn’t large enough to offer them a place where they can feel like they can contribute.

Vision Provides an Environment for Identity
For Millennials and Gen Z’ers, vision and mission are both essential. Since these two generations view their world through the collective experiences of their community, they have an innate desire to be a part of a vision that they can associate with. The mission is just as critical as well because it guides the group through the actions that are needed in order to fulfill the vision. Without mission, the group will live out their identity elsewhere. While our youth and young adults would not disagree that their identity is in Christ, their understanding of identity can be more tribal. Thus, being able to live out one’s identity in today’s world may require more opportunities for students to be a part of something larger (something that can be experienced with others).

Why Vision is Important for Youth Ministry
Older generations may be content with going to church to experience their faith among others and to help fulfill a few immediate needs in the community, but global-minded Millennials and Gen Z’ers are seeking opportunities to change their world and live out their faith through a collective experience alongside other likeminded individuals. Steve Gladen, pastor of small groups at Saddleback Church, says “People generally don’t give to needs; they give time and resources to a vision.”  For Millennials and Gen Z’ers, this is especially true. Should the church neglect this, our youth and young adults will be more likely to fade away from the body of Christ. This isn’t because they don’t believe in God, but because they naturally gravitate to opportunities or causes that help their faith become more tangible. If such opportunities are not available in the church, they may eventually find themselves expressing their faith in other locations, likely through works that are anchored elsewhere in the physical realm. In your next sermon, take extra care to mention to your churchgoers why they are all vital contributors toward the vision of your church.

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