The Source for Youth Ministry


Walt: We need to see ourselves as cross cultural missionaries. So, a BIG SIN is when youth workers fail to see themselves as cross cultural missionaries. We don't just have to know the Word, we have to know the world, changing kids and their changing world. So, youth workers have to be about the business of knowing what those kids are swimming in everyday.

Jonathan: It's funny, cause if someone goes to China, of course they would engage in six months of study. But youth work, they're like, "Hey, I live here. I don't need to study."

Walt: Yeah. Actually, if you go to China it's going to be a lot more than six months, language and culture. And the problem is, if we don't see it as cross cultural missions work, we can have a calling, we can have a great knowledge of the message we're communicating, but if we don't know our audience, we can communicate that message clearly to us, but they never hear it. It falls on deaf ears because they don't have categories for it, they don't understand it, or we don't bring the truths of God's Word and that wonderful life-giving message, to bear on the realities that exist.

I remember Francis Schaeffer said, "If we don't understand our calling as cross cultural missionaries, not just in youth ministry, but people in general, we are only beating the air" when we go to speak to truth. You know, we're out there throwing stuff out, but nobody can hear. We speak to a world that no longer exists.

Jonathan: Let me be the Devil's advocate, or as my wife says, "a pain in the butt." What about the person that comes up and says, "We don't need to know all this crud that's out there in the world, all we need to know is the Word of God and if we know that..." and then some people will actually elaborate enough to even share the illustration of the Secret Service, how, when it comes to counterfeiting, they only need to study the US currency, and if they know that US currency, then they're able to spot that counterfeit. They don't study the hundreds of counterfeits out there; they only know the real thing, and so that way, they can spot a counterfeit. And then they'll say, "In the same way, we just need to know the Bible and then when we go out there that's all we need."

Does that conflict with what you're saying?

Walt: I remember the first time that I heard that—and I've heard it probably like you have, cause you talk about culture—dozens and dozens of times, if not hundreds. And it drives me nuts because it really is a horrible analogy, because it does break down for them. Because what the Secret Service is looking for is the counterfeit.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Walt: And they have to know the truth to be able to look at the counterfeit to know that it's not real.

Jonathan: Sure.

Walt: But they have to look at the counterfeit. And part of what Secret Service people will do, is like at my local Kmart, they'll sometimes swipe a bill with some sort of a magic marker, and hold it up to the light. And I don't know what they're doing there, but they're looking at it, and they're comparing, and they're working to understand. Those Kmart clerks were taught what the truth is and what lies are. Isn't that what we want to do with our kids? You know, I want to be able to talk to my own four kids and say, "Here's the truth, here are the lies." To expose the lies, I need to know the truth. But I need to know the lies, too.

Jonathan: Yeah, but wouldn't they argue, "Well you only need to know the truth because then you'll be able to recognize the lies."

Walt: Well, in a way, that's true, but you're still looking at the lie.

Jonathan: Sure, and when they come, you have to say "Oh look, here's a common lie we're seeing."

Walt: Exactly. And part of my responsibility as a dad and someone in youth ministry, and everyone who's listening who is in youth ministry, is to say to kids, "Here's the truth, and here's how it shines on the lies of your world."