Professor, Youth and Family Ministry
Luther Seminary, USA
In each edition of IG Mix, we ask a guest writer two questions about serving in ministry.
What keeps you up at night?
I’m sure I’m not alone, but I’ve found it harder to sleep during the pandemic. I suppose I could have (maybe even should have) treated the lockdowns as an opportunity to hibernate. Unable to control the crisis, I should have controlled what I could and caught up, even stored up, on sleep. But the crisis throbbed with an anxiety that kept me from rest and peace. I couldn’t sleep because I misunderstood the crisis, thinking somehow my own action could control what (at least in a global sense for me) was uncontrollable. And this is not unlike what keeps me up in regards to the church and its ministry to young people. I stare at the ceiling, with a low buzz of anxiety, fearing that we’ve misunderstood the crisis in which the church finds itself. We keep thinking that the crisis is loss, and therefore decline. We imagine the church’s crisis as the loss of resources, relevance, and participants. We’re so anxious to find the solutions to these crises, and climb ourselves beyond crisis. Ministry—especially with younger people—becomes a strategy to solve these crises. The anxiety gets placed on the shoulders of ministers, youth workers, and young pastors, and the misdiagnosis of the crisis creates an epidemic of burnout.
What gets me up in the morning?
Yet, what gets me up in the morning is not the idea that the crisis is pretend (it is most definitely real!). But the crisis is not really one of decline, but of God’s own action. The point of ministry isn’t to solve the crisis, finding a way to move our ministries and churches beyond crisis. But rather it is to embrace crisis. It is not a crisis of decline. The crisis is that even in this fast-moving secular age, the God of Israel speaks. The crisis is that the God who is truly God calls out to us, and we are called to respond. This is our crisis; the central concern of the minister, and one we shouldn’t seek to solve and get beyond but to embrace. What gets me out of bed is that God—even in this kind of world—speaks, and I must help people discern and respond to this voice, following the call of the living Jesus. It is a crisis because the God who is truly God speaks, and we live in a time where discerning God’s voice is more than a challenge. But remembering that this is our crisis (not the loss of resources and relevance) gives us life, presenting us with a joyful call as the very reason to get out of bed. This kind of crisis doesn’t beckon me to speed up to solve all sorts of problems (and therefore risk burnout). Instead, it calls for attentiveness, to an openness to be with and for people as we together discern the voice of the living God in doubt and hope.
Andrew Root is the Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, USA. He writes and researches in areas of theology, ministry, culture and younger generations. His most recent books are The Congregation in a Secular Age, The End of Youth Ministry?, The Pastor in a Secular Age: Ministry to People Who No Longer Need God, Faith Formation in a Secular Age, and Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies: Youth Ministry in the Age of Science.
More IG Mix Nov-Dec 2021 articles
- FAQs for the NEW Intergenerational Ministry Starter Bundle
- GenOn Youth Summit 2022 Is On!
- Seminary Corner: Ritual Revolution
- Increasing Mutual Investment in Worship
Sign up here to receive IG Mix and other intergenerational ministry ideas and guidance (about 1-2 emails per month)