Program Vs. Movement in Youth Ministry: Jeff Lovingood at SEBTS

This week I have been teaching a new course called Missional Student Ministry with my friend Jeff Lovingood. If you know student ministry you know Jeff, a 29 year veteran of student ministry, the last ten years of which have been spent at Long Hollow Baptist Church near Nashville. Next Wednesday night I will speak to the students there (around 1100 in two Wednesday night services!).

I love Jeff. He is a master practitioner. I am wired a little more toward theology and history and the big picture of why and what we do, and Jeff is a master of the application. I am the thunder, and he is lightning. It has been a great combo this week, and we will do this again.

Jeff understands movements. Most church leaders don’t quite frankly. In my tradition of the SBC we think movements happen by getting a bunch of people to an event and getting them to sign a card of something. No, movements start with a few and over time change many. 

Jeff gave a lecture on the difference between program-driven student ministry and a ministry driven by movement. Here are some of his thoughts with a bit of commentary in parentheses.

Program-Driven Student Ministry

    Has stops and starts (inconsistent)

–   Calendar driven (not driven by the mission—as long as you have enough events on the calendar you are doing just fine)

–   Man focused (the people already reached are the point)

–   Task driven (key is not change but accomplishing a given task)

–   Sacred cows that cant die (we’ve always done it that way)

–    The calendar is more important than immediate needs

–   Predictable and cyclical (maintenance is a core value)

–   Sees change as a road block rather then opportunity for creativity

–    It become youth ministry in a box

–   Always has to “one up” the last thing

–    Results are easier to measure 

Contrast this to a movement. 

Movement-driven

– Begins with you on your knees (start with the admission that you do not have all the answers and must depend on God)

– Minister sees the youth ministry for what it could be (vision)

– Never go into a meeting knowing all the steps (You know the beginning not the end yet

– It cannot be about you doing all the work of the youth ministry (it spreads virally)

– It is fluid; it has movement

– You are community focused and relational/inarnational

– Ministry celebrates life-change (celebrate in services, thru social media, all means possible the things of God)

– Reflects on the journey what God has done and will do

– Challenges everyone to realize that they are ministers and missionaries

– Challenges students to greatness not survival, and to raise the bar not to maintain the status quo

–  Movement doesn’t settle, and is able to think what God can do with you.

– Movement is viral

– Timing is more important then time

– A movement flows despite distractions (look at the book of Acts).

– Expect Chaos at times not a tidy little ministry

– The why matters most

–  Learn the art of staying out of the way

Think about this: every significant advance in the church started with a few and spread as a movement.

The Reformation: Luther and a few like him.

The Great Awakening: Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley, and a few more.

North American birth and spread of foreign missions: a few college students under a haystack in August 1806.

Civil Rights: Rosa Parks, MLK and a few more.

Acts and the expansion of Christianity: a few disciples.

How much of your time are you giving to maintaining the programs and structures of ministries, or to trusting God to move?

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Alvin Reid
Alvin L. Reid (born 1959) serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two children: Joshua, a senior at The College at Southeastern, and Hannah, a senior at Wake Forest Rolesville High School. Recently he became more focused at ministry in his local church by being named Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin holds the M.Div and the Ph.D with a major in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary, and the B.A. from Samford University. He has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and continent, and in over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States.

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