May 2008 - Vol. 19

photo by Wojtek Solecki 

When You’re Hot You’re Hot!

Striving for excellence in youth work

By Mike Shaughnessy

Youth culture is hot. It is very attractive, highly seductive, extremely compelling and often – false. Much of Christianity is lukewarm. It is unenthusiastic, bland, boring, but true. Which is winning the battle for youth?

I decided I wanted to do youth work when I was seventeen. I was part of a youth group led by excellent staff. I wanted to be like them. I was attracted to their commitment to excellence.

Excellence means "something of heaven's very essence." The word has three parts: ex = out of, cel or ciel = heaven, and ence = essence. In Greek, the word means inexpressible. When you run into real excellence you say: WOW! Or nothing at all.

The call to excellence in working with youth exists for three good reasons: for our sake, for their sake and for God's sake.

Excellence is its own reward. No one is proud of sloppy, ineffective, half-hearted work. We are made in the likeness of God. Look at his work. He was humble in calling it good. He has put the desire for excellence in our nature as well.

Our goal must be to bring youth to lead a more excellent Christian life than we do. Our commitment to that makes a difference! Here, "good enough" just isn't good enough! We must not run just a good, but an excellent program.

  • Talks that make it seem as if the Lord himself were there
  • Worship that opens to doors to heaven
  • Games and activities that are fun, compelling and educational.
In Matthew 25:14-21 Jesus gives us a goal: use your talents so that when you enter judgment you will hear: "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master." What makes your heavenly master rejoice – the excellent use of your talents.

The challenge of passing on the faith to the next generation has never been more difficult, nor more important.

We, as parents or youth workers, are in critical roles particularly in this age of the church. Dedication to excellence is a necessary starting point for us.

[Mike Shaughnessy is an elder in The Servants of the Word and the Director of Kairos in North America. Kairos is an international federation of outreaches to high school, university and post university aged people.]

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