Rethinking Youth Ministry Training

Rethinking Youth Ministry Training January 10, 2021

In Finding Organic Church, I explore how Paul deliberately mentored, coached, and apprenticed his younger coworkers in Ephesus for a period of three years. Essentially, Paul repeated what Jesus did with the Twelve in Galilee in what A. B. Bruce called “the training of the Twelve.”

The main difference is that Paul trained eight people instead of twelve.

Interestingly, during the time that Paul trained these eight coworkers to carry on his work, he paid for their needs. Rather than taking money from them – to pay for their training or “internship” – he supported them during those years of spiritual apprenticeship.

Paul makes this plain in his discourse to the Ephesian elders:

“I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:33-35).

Incidentally, that’s the context of the famous text, “It is better to give than to receive.”

With that in mind, I received this email from someone this week. A Christian sister in her 30s. The email raises some important, piercing questions. Take a look.

Why is it that so many churches and organizations have “internship” programs for young adults, and in almost every single case, the young adult has to raise money for these usually very expensive programs?

Oftentimes, if one wants to “really get involved” in the inner workings of a group, or have any opportunities for leadership, one has to cough up anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for “leadership training” in a “school” or “internship program” with their organization.

It seems that organizations have found these internship programs both a good way to raise up new leaders, but also a great way to finance the already existing leaders with fees from the new interns, and I don’t see ANYONE out on the blogosphere questioning what’s going on here.

Is it right that in the body of Christ, in order to be trained and to come into meaningful chances and opportunities of leadership within any organization, one has to pay thousands of dollars for that training – and go around begging money from their brothers and sisters for that?

I can understand people being asked to raise money when they are SENT somewhere, when the money is necessary to fulfilling the mission they are being sent on, but someone now money has become a prerequisite to being allowed on the inside track of any up and coming ministry, from 24/7 (for instance, to be on the inside track with them one should go to their 5 month training program for roughly $8,000, not counting personal expenses) to YWAM to many large churches to IHOP and on and on.

I personally would really love to give myself wholly to serving and meaningful exchange within a body of believers and it is freaky and frustrating to find that (a) I’m expected to go through a very basic and expensive training program to learn the basics of Christianity when I’ve been a believer for 25 years already, and (b) it would cost me thousands and thousands of dollars to jump through those hoops.

The gatekeepers are not being kind. Someone in the blogosphere needs to ask about the sustainability of these programs and the assumptions that are being made in the structure of these things.

What do you think about this sister’s observations and feelings . . . are they valid? What do you think of Paul’s way of training people for ministry, by contrast? If you are someone who is called to the Lord’s work, how do you personally go about finding a mentor or someone to train you . . . what’s your process or has such idea never occurred to you?

I’d especially like to hear from those of you who are in your 20s and 30s.  Bring your friends over to the blog and have them weigh-in to the question also. Let’s see what we can discover.

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