For years I was a youth and young adult pastor. I was a proud member of what can be an under appreciated, over worked and now looking back extremely clueless club, I say clueless because many in this club were quick to point out the above points, thinking that the leadership above or beside us just didn’t get it, that their job security was sure, that they had lost touch with what was really important. Youth and young adult pastors the world over look down on other staff members, claiming they don’t understand or know what matters, they are on the cutting edge, they aren’t relevant.
I used to wear the badge of being relevant with honor. Movies and culture were something I spent time studying to keep up with the latest trends. I hate to admit it but there were times when I spent more time with Rolling Stone, GQ, EGM, and IMDB than I did with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I would read publications about cutting edge ministry, surf for the latest trends and stay on the edge of what was at the time an emerging social media market. Offering classes to parents on Facebook, and at the time MySpace.
I used to care about being relevant…and to be honest I still do but the perspective has shifted. As a youth and young adult pastor it was easy for me, and I’m guessing for others like me to mistake relevance with early adoption. In our zeal to be relevant we equate relevance with adoption. Inevitably this takes up time, valuable time, time that could be spent being relevant in the lives of the people we are supposed to be ministering too instead of being an authority on cultural shift and the latest trends.
If I could somehow tell my younger self anything it would be to do the research, keep up with what is going on but to major in relevant relationships instead of relevance.
This all came up tonight when faced with the unending diatribe of memes and mushy platitudes attached to pictures instagramed and pinned by the 12-year-old. I know about these things. I understand their relevance, I know it’s important to find ways to express yourself, and to be able to use what’s around you, whats popular, whats trending to identify yourself. We were mall rats, spent nights at the skate zone, or rollerworld, played our video games a quarter at a time. Summer was for camp and movies and the drive in. The fair was all about food and rides and girls. having a phone meant your parents put a jack in your room. I had records and a component stereo in my room that was loud. Portable music was a Walkman that played tapes and the radio. CD’s became main stream as I was heading to college. This was all important to me and I know my kids all have things that are all important to them, I want to interact with them on those levels in some ways but in others I really don’t care. I don’t want to read what someone else wrote about their bae (I just found out this isn’t a lazy form of baby, or babe but means (before anyone else) I hate the word a sure sign I’m older, but that’s okay. I want to be relevant in my kids life and doing so doesn’t require me to adopt the latest app, or change the keyboard on my smart phone, or speak emoji, it means knowing about these things sure, and as a leader of a church that wants to be relevant in people’s lives find ways to leverage these things, and the people who can do that effectively, but to be relevant in a person’s life means I’m interested in them, in the things that matter to them, in their struggles, in their joys, in their pain, in their heartache and in their need. Real relevance is not about stuff or knowing about the latest, it’s about being intentional in each chance we have to interact with another human being. It’s about offering the love and grace and mercy and truth that Jesus is to others and then doing it again and again and again. The relevance of the gospel is a constant, sure the way we present it changes but it never does.
As I struggle to be relevant in my children’s and churches life, I will be reminding myself over and over that doing so is more about being in community and less about what’s cutting edge…