The Busy Youth Minister: Theology = Methodology

My mentor in my early days of youth ministry was a straight-talking, loud-walking, 6 foot, 9 inches, 280-pound man who had done student ministry for over twenty years. He had about eight maxims that he would repeat, reminding me they were the only things I needed to know.

He used to love to say, “Big C, baby, what you gotta know is that theology equals methodology. What you do tells you everything you need to know about what you believe.” His words stand as 100% pure gold.

With about 90 hours of work under my belt one week – between mission trips, Sunday school, small groups, administrative work, contact work, etc. – I was strung-out and tired. I felt immense stress, and when I examined my methodology, as my mentor had taught me to do, looking to see what it revealed about my theology at a heart level, I realized that my work schedule included no prayer.

The busy lifestyle and absence of prayer clearly showed what I believed: that I had sole responsibility for moving the Kingdom forward and bringing kids to Christ. Even worse, this methodology uncovered an arrogant attitude that not only did I have to save the kids, but that I could. Sadly, it suggested that God could not.

Even while I was a preaching a Gospel of grace, teaching students that the Cross frees you from a life of performance, I was living as if the Cross had accomplished very little and as if God could not be trusted to fulfill His promises.

Ministry requires urgency; it truly is life-and-death business. But the nature of our sinfulness – constantly desiring to be “little gods,” as Martin Luther phrased it – requires frequent reality checks, daily repentance, and renewed trust in Christ.

When we are caught in the all-too-common lifestyle of the “busy” youth minister, we must ask ourselves: who, in fact, is the Messiah? When we feel overwhelming responsibility, we must examine: are we forgetting whose role it is to bring forward the Kingdom? When we are inconsistent or infrequent in our prayer life, we must question: do we really believe God can and will act? If we feel immense weight, we must remember: Jesus has already relieved our burden on the Cross; why should we feel compelled to pick it up again?

Cameron Cole has been the Director of Youth Ministries for eighteen years, and in January of 2016 his duties expanded to include Children, Youth, and Families. He is the founding chairman of Rooted Ministry, an organization that promotes gospel-centered youth ministry. He is the co-editor of “Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practice Guide” (Crossway, 2016). Cameron is the author of Therefore, I Have Hope: 12 Truths that Comfort, Sustain, and Redeem in Tragedy (Crossway, 2018), which won World Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year (Accessible Theology) and was runner up for The Gospel Coalition’s Book of the Year (First-Time Author). He is also the co-editor of The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School (New Growth Press) and the author of Heavenward: How Eternity Can Change Your Life on Earth (Crossway, 2024). Cameron is a cum laude graduate of Wake Forest University undergrad, and summa cum laude graduate from Wake Forest with an M.A. in Education. He holds a Masters in Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary.

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