In my 10 years experience with Youth Ministries, I have come to realize that there are 2 types of Youth Ministries: Packing snow ministries, and Powdered snow ministries (please keep in mind, I’m talking about the ministries, not the people being ministered to).
- Packing Snow: It looks pretty on the tree branches, but most people don’t like it much because instead of melting, it gets hard and dirty. If it’s on the car in the morning, it won’t just fly off from the wind, and you will need more than a brush to take it off…and chances are, there’s a thick layer of ice underneath it, so you will need to use your muscles to scrape it off (even with a scraper). But when it comes to snowballs, you don’t need a whole lot to make a good one. You can collect it, mold it, roll it on the ground and it will get bigger. Throw it and it will fly like a baseball. And when it hits something, it not only makes an impact (you will know when it hits you or something), but even when most bounces off the target, it will often leave some mark on the target (and when it melts away, there will still remain a wet circle where it hit). If you try to walk on it, you may even walk on top of it for a little while.
- Powdered Snow: looks real pretty. It’s light and fluffy, flies off the car when wind hits it, and is easy to brush off. But you can’t make a snowball out of it, for if you try, once you throw it, it will quickly disperse and return as powdered snow. If you try to walk on it, you sink straight through. It melts quickly, too.
Now, to explain them as ministry: congregations most often like the powdered snow ministries because they look nice…they’re usually filled with tons of kids, and congregations think that if such is the case, then it must be a good, healthy ministry. But the problem with this type of snow ministry is that it flies away when wind (trials) blows, and is easily brushed away when the brush (persecution) swipes by. A Packed-snow ministry, on the other hand, holds weight, and can’t be brushed off so easily…and those who persecute it really need to work hard to scrape it off.
Packing a snowball is discipleship, and throwing it at a target is compared to being sent out (missions, evangelism, witnessing, etc.). When a snowball hits the target (when the gospel is preached), it makes an impact…one notices the change (conversion), even if most of it bounces off, there is that obvious watermark that remains awhile. Only packed snow can do this, for when powdered snow is sent out (thrown), as soon as it leaves the hand (of the Youth Pastor), the wind hits and the snow disperses, never making it even close to its target.
The difference between the 2 types of snow is the water content…packing snow is full of water, while powdered snow is dry. In the same way, powdered snow ministries are so focused on bringing in people and keeping their numbers big that they lack the Living Water (Gospel of Jesus Christ). But Packing snow ministries are not concerned about the numbers…they are only concerned about promoting and enriching their students’ relationships and walks with Jesus Christ…answering the Lord’s call for true ministry. The numbers will come, but the focus must be on Christ.
See, Youth Pastors take on a lot of pressure from those who consider numbers to be the sign of success (which is most everybody in the congregation who works at or runs a corporation). They’re often forced to choose between keeping their jobs (quantity) or obeying the Lord’s call (quality). But Paul warns the Corinthian church that they must not judge success according to the world’s standards, but according to the obedience of the Lord’s servant.
Have you ever noticed those big youth groups filled with kids who don’t behave anything like Christians are “supposed” to behave? They’re filled with the kinds of kids that I continue to hear un-churched folk complaining about saying, “they don’t behave any different from me, so why would I want to be part of that?” I heard of another atheist saying to a student, “you believe that sin leads to death and that you’re free from its grasp because of your faith in Jesus…I don’t believe in it either way, so I don’t care about how I behave, but you believe it, yet behave like me!” These “Christians”, I believe, are results from powdered snow ministries.