10 years ago, writer, theologian, church leader, and satirist Mike Yaconelli died unexpectedly in a car accident. His impact on youth ministry can still be felt. Here are a few quotes I love from public speeches he gave at various youth ministry events around the country.
“Why would a church spend money on an office? And then why would they turn around and go, ‘You’re never in the office.’? And then it’s so nice to go, ‘Because I don’t need it! Because it is a waste of time! Because my office is a McDonald’s, my office is a Pizza Hut, my office is a football field, my office is hanging out with kids on a corner! My office is skateboarding! And the reason I have to be out there is that you have signs all around our building saying NO SKATEBOARDS!”
“It really bugs me that we’ve decided in our churches to come up with a management model, and that’s the model we’re using to govern most of our churches. So we have to have strategic plans, we gotta have a mission statement, we gotta have little forms to fill out to put down what we’re doing. Give me a break! The church is not IBM, the church is the church! We sit there all day with a report that we can’t fill out because there’s no words– this is a calling that is beyond words! You know it and I know it, and we’re sick and tired of being forced into taking Myers-Briggs tests to see if we oughtta be on the staff? Who in the hell came up with that idea? And I meant hell literally, because that’s where I think it came from. I can see Jesus now… ‘Follow me… into this room, so we can give you a Myers-Briggs test’.”
“I think evil looks a lot different than most people. Evil looks like busyness. Evil looks like workaholics. Somebody who’s a workaholic in the church? Everybody pats them on the head, and says ‘you’re so committed; you’re so dedicated.’ No, you’re needy and you’re in trouble. It’s time we realize that the church is the place in our culture where people can go and say, ‘do you have time to talk about this?’ and we go, ‘Yeah, I do. Let’s sit down. Let’s talk. I have time for you.”
“There’s one youth worker here who was approached by some church elders who said that they were shocked to see some kids out in the lawn of the church, reading their bibles and smoking. I’m thinking to myself, if I were in that church, I’d bring in that youth worker and say I don’t know what you’re doing, but you deserve a raise if you can get kids who are smoking to read the bible! How many times have you been in a board meeting, and they’ve called you to say ‘Listen, the Jones Memorial Hall carpet has got a stain on it, and it must be your fault. From now on, you can’t meet in the Jones Memorial Hall carpet room.’ I’m thinking to myself, what kind of church has somebody donate a room, and donate a carpet, and then they don’t wanna have anything happen to it? They want to be able to come back 20 years later and say ‘look at that carpet, it looks just like new!’ Are they out of their minds? If they’re a church that’s worth their salt, they’re going to walk into that board meeting and say, ‘you’re not going to believe this, but you know that Jones Memorial carpet that’s only been there for two years? It’s worn out! WOOHOO!!!”
“People get hurt, and people get offended, and you go, ‘well how can we keep that from happening?’. There’s a really easy way: don’t do anything! […] And there won’t be anything left! I hope you realize that when Jesus comes, he comes to people like you and me: people who makes mistakes, who don’t do it right, who screw up, who do stuff that other people wouldn’t do who have more sense. That’s why we’re in youth ministry! We go out on the edge, we do whatever needs to be done to reach people. And don’t apologize for reaching. And if they tell you that you can’t do it, then QUIT. Go get a job somewhere else or volunteer so they can’t fire you. I want to be honest, if you’re a youth worker and don’t have a rule that’s made because of your youth ministry, you’re not a decent youth worker. There’s gotta be something… ‘no soccer in the sanctuary’… ‘no hide-and-go-seek in the organ pipes’…”