In 1984, John Lasseter left his job at Disney animation and formed a company with George Lucas as apart of Lucasfilm, LTD. In 1986, Steve Jobs, of Apple Computer fame, bought this department from Lucasfilm and created an independent company called Pixar. Over the course of the next few years, Pixar released many short films at Siggraph, winning many awards. They also made commercials with companies such as Tropicana and Listerine. Then, in 1991, Pixar teamed up with Disney to form 3 feature length films and a partnership was formed that eventually led to Disney buying Pixar in 2006.
One of the main reasons why John left Disney for Pixar was because of the computer animation. Computer animation was an up and coming development in animation and since Disney was not going to be part of the early form of computer animation, John went to Pixar where he developed tons of commercials, short stories and movies. Over the course of the next decade, Pixar ended up putting together such great blockbusters as Cars, Toy Story 1 & 2 and Monsters, Inc. In the meantime, Disney did not have a blockbuster animation hit since The Lion King in 1994. Pixar produced better stories accompanied with better animation. Because of this, Disney ultimately choose to buy out Pixar and thus, John Lasseter returned to Disney, now serving as the Chief Creative Officer.
In many ways, the Pixar/Disney story is similar to the Para-church/Church story. Disney represents churches and Pixar represents Para-church ministries. Para-church ministries are started for a variety of reasons. They could have wanted to be interdenominational to reach more people, or maybe they wanted creative freedom than what a Church allows or simply wanted to focus on a specific purpose. Whatever the reason was for starting it, para-church ministries were not started to compete with Churches.
Young Life, like many other great para-church organizations was designed to be an aid and to assist the Church. Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life, started out as an Associate Pastor in Texas. His Senior Pastor gave him the charge to go out and reach unchurched teens in hopes to bring them to the Church. Out of that mission and assignment, Young Life was formed. Despite this intent, I have heard of so many Youth Pastors who are threatened by Young Life or feel that they are “stealing” their students away. This kind of mindset is what I believe is a key hindrance between Para-churches and Churches having healthy, working relationships together. When we allow this mindset to take hold, God’s kingdom suffers because we fight against each other rather than with each other.
When I first got to Cedar Run, I had just come off an over 4-year employment with Young Life. Although I left Young Life, it was not for any negative reason. Now, as a Youth Pastor of a small – medium sized church, I knew I needed some help in reaching students for Christ. Therefore, when Mike Miller became the Area Director of Young Life in my area, I set up a time to meet with him. Mike and I knew each other from my time with Young Life and I had a lot of respect for him, even thought he regularly beat me at Frisbee golf during our 3 week Young Life training. Out of that first conversation with him, I realized that I wanted to form a partnership with him. Over the past 4 years, we have partnered on leadership training, ministering to students with disabilities and now we are preparing to do a Discipleship day for our students together. It has been a great partnership.
Partnering with other churches is just as important as partnering with other ministries.
Have you ever gotten an invite from another Church for a special event and wonder, “Don’t they know I’m a Youth Pastor, too. Why would you invite me to something at your church?” Maybe it is just me, but I have wondered this many times before as I get those fliers in my church mailbox. However, I quickly correct myself as I realize just why these churches are doing this. It is because they wanted me to take advantage of something they were doing. They did not want to “steal” my students away. They simply want me to be apart of it so that you could use it as a tool for my ministry and students. As Youth Pastors and Ministers at small – medium sized churches or organizations, we have to take advantage of these opportunities.
Just like with para-church ministries, there are too many times when we feel that we can not work with other churches. I know it is easier for churches in the same denomination to work together and unite for trips and activities. But, is it really a mortal sin for a Methodist youth group to be associated with a Baptist one? Why is that? What if we don’t have other churches in our denomination close enough to unite? Do not get caught up in thinking that just because you are the head youth leader, you cannot and should not work with others, that you owe it to your church to plan a great event alone. When we choose to be the lone ranger and go after these students by ourselves, we miss plenty of opportunities to unite students together and spur them on in Christ.
Partnering with other ministries and churches are great for a variety of other reasons. First, you all may be trying to reach the same students. By partnering with others, you can eliminate the overlap and be united to reach these students for Christ better. For instance, Mike Miller and I have a lot of the same students involved in our programs. When we partner together we have better success as we are not unintentionally competing against each other with similar events. Secondly, it brings Youth Pastors and Ministers together. As I have mentioned in a previous post, it stinks to be the lone ranger. When you are partnering with others, it unites two or more people together who are trying to do that same accomplish similar goals. Thirdly, it unites students together and gives them a bigger picture of the kingdom of God. For example, maybe Johnny goes to First Baptist and Luke goes to First Methodist, but they both go to the same school. They may not know they are both Believers, but if you join together for an event, they will realize that there is another Believer at their school who can encourage and support them. What a great opportunity for them to connect! Lastly, it combines resources. In a non-mega church, your budget can be limited. By joining together with others you can split the cost of doing a stellar event. You benefit, students benefit and most importantly, Christ is proclaimed.
A word of caution – DO NOT PARTNER FOR THE SAKE OF PARTNERING. I believe partnerships are great, but do not sacrifice your core values and beliefs just to join together. There has to be a right mix of personalities and missions in order for this to be helpful. Had I tried to partner with Young Life the year before Mike got there, it would not have worked. Not only were there differences in personalities but also there were differences in vision that would not have made it successful. Therefore, when you are looking at partnering with other ministries and churches, do not partner for the sake of partnering, make sure that the Lord has opened a door for you to go through. If the Lord is not opening this door, it will only lead to frustration and conflict.
TAKE A MINUTE and…
- Find out what para-church ministries are in your area. Find out what their purpose is and if there is any commonality between your church and their organization. Some youth specific ones are Young Life, FCA and Youth for Christ’s Campus Life. If there is a local office of any of these groups in your area, pick up the phone and call the Area Director to set up a “get to know” meeting.
- Give a Youth Pastor from another church a call and set up a time for you to get to know each other.
Know this, by setting up a meeting with them, does not mean you have to partner with them. It is just an opportunity to get to know them. Out of that conversation, a partnership may develop. But, unless you start the process of first getting to know them, you will never know.