I totally get the strategy and potential multiplication that happens when you take the cream of the crop and invest into them. The potential pay off is huge. They become spiritual leaders among their friends, at their schools, in their companies, and even follow a call into ministry. Many of us youth pastors were "leader" kids that were given some extra love and attention by our youth pastor and helped shape a larger view of ourselves and ministry and that is why we are doing what we are doing.
Leader kids are the best.
They are all in. They are normal. They have social kids and it feels good when they like us. And while I am a product of some extra love and have seen the fruit of that in some of my leader kids, I wonder if the strategy of ministry to leaders trains our hearts, our leaders, and our ministries to miss the very heart of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Let's face it, the "least of these" kids are a challenge. Our groups would be much more effective and fun, and we could actually reach more kids if these socially awkward, totally dysfunctional, poor hygiene kids were not around as much. There is absolutely no strategic goal that is accomplished by giving our time to this group of kids. There is little chance that our time with them will turn them into part of the main stream of our ministry let alone of their campus.
The proverbial wisdom is that whatever you feed, grows, what ever you starve dies. When we focus so much of our time and energy pouring into leader kids, then that is the culture that develops and the space for those on the fringe becomes limited at best. If you pour into the kids on the fringes and that shapes your culture, your dreams of developing a large, dynamic, beautiful youth ministry go out the window.
Are we perverting the Gospel?
As much as I so long to have a youth group where the leader kids and families are attracted to and impressed with, I am wondering more and more if this is just a continued perversion of the Gospel. I have read many books, and seen many youth ministries in action. Everyone is pushing me towards intentional and strategic development of leaders. And when I spend time with Jesus and watch what he did and how he did it, it is the opposite.
Does anyone else wrestle with this conflict in values? Has anyone read anything that speaks to this issue? (Besides Henri Nouwen, our favorite author we love to read, but hate to model) Has anyone developed an intentional and strategic plan to make plenty of space and provide plenty of care for the least of these?
May God be gracious with us as leaders to be good stewards of our ministries and of our gifts, but not at the expense of those we are actually called to care for.