When something rotten invades the heart of the home, all else pauses until it’s found. You know the smell—the unmistakable stink of leftovers turned into a science project. When such a stench struck my house, I followed my nose to the usual offenders, but even after disinfecting the sink disposal, the stench remained. It took a full-family search-and-sniff effort to finally identify the root of the rancid odor: a small potato had rolled from its bag to the back corner of the cabinet and was festering in a putrid pool.
Jesus knows stink. In the Lazarus story in John 11, when Jesus asks Lazarus’ family to open his tomb, they protest. In verse 39, Martha points out that it has been four days of decay since Lazarus died and it just plain stinks. Jesus is unafraid of the stinky, rotten stuff of life and death. Jesus faces it head-on, actually goes toward it, and calls it back to life. Where there is rot, Jesus brings new life.
What’s hiding in the dark corners of your ministry with students? You know the smell—the unmistakable stink of a youth ministry turned inward and stale. This summer of reflection and change is the time to sniff out the rotten and get busy cleaning it up. Take action and allow God to bring new and thriving life to your ministry with youth.
Invite others on the journey
Jesus travelled with a team of twelve. Ask key people involved in your ministry to help you examine your overall ministry plan to identify and smooth out the rough spots. Partner with parents, students, volunteers, and other youth workers.
Clear out the triggers
A longtime favorite game at my church once divided into groups by gender, which alienates trans and nonbinary students. Another treasured activity involved food games, which horrifies students with eating disorders. Antiquated methods and words could trigger distress among teens. Make every effort to create a safe and loving environment. Know your audience and consider alternative language and activities that unite instead of isolate.
Prepare to get dirty
You can’t expect to refresh the rot without getting a little dirty. It can be painful and personal in the dark corners. Be as objective as you can while you examine the reach of your ministry. A trusted counselor could be helpful.
Follow Jesus’ lead and face head-on the rotting and decaying programs, traditions, and mindsets in your church. Celebrate how God is breathing new life into your ministry.