When did lack of training become a badge of honor?

In the last six months I have met many people longing for training in ministry. Wishing they could go to seminary. Wishing that something was offered locally.

I recall being in seminary and meeting person after person who had saved or their village had saved for nearly a decade for them to be trained and every moment in class was considered a privilege and gift. (I want to be clear, I don’t think all seminary or all trainings are the answers to better ministry but…there is wisdom in the ongoing conversation and learning from others.)

And then there is the polar opposite group I keep meeting or hearing about. There is a sort of pride that comes in holding a position of leadership with no training what-so-ever. They walk with cockiness (or sheer naivete) and talk of how “God has blessed them” and that they were “just the right person at the right time”. They also talk of getting to do things beyond what they are capable and how great that is. What is bugging me today are those who seem to think they already know everything expressing no desire for training or leadership. In fact, just the opposite.

In the last two weeks I have heard

* of a youth leader (seminary student at that but with no training in youth ministry) who thought it was perfectly appropriate to state the name of his church and that nude photos of himself had been posted with comments from students in the ministry.

* of a youth leader infriending a parent after a snarky comment online but keeping the junior high and HS daughters as friends.

* of a trip being taken with no permission slips or medical release forms at all.

* of a youth leader stating there was no need for conversation about the atonement during the Easter holidays as his youth just weren’t interested.

* of a youth leader being asked to take a denominational position and telling me that despite only having taken one course at the undergrad level and almost three years of internship and part time ministry, he was ready to pass on his wisdom.

* of a group of youth leaders being offered a conference on working with teens in crisis for 25% of the cost, in their hometown so no travel expenses, and they decided it was more beneficial to hold their weekly planning meeting and didn’t want to interrupt that schedule.

* of a college stripping down classes so that even if an admin aide with no experience in ministry had to step in as the instructor, he or she could facilitate the syllabus and assignments at the level they desire.

* That gifted students should be encouraged to study anything but ministry because there is no financial future in it and you don’t really need training anyway.

So how is all of this lack of training working for the church?

I could go on but it alternately depresses me and makes me angry. I still go to trainings. I still talk with others about their ideas and what is taking place, even when I don’t agree with them. I still believe that the blessing we have with an abundance of resources is not to be taken lightly.

Pride in a lack of training is not a badge of honor. It is a red flag with dire circumstances waiting to happen.

It also speaks volumes of how we value young people. We require training for almost every field and value what is brought to the table. This should be no different when working with adolescents, early middle and emerging adults. They too are the church and valuable beyond belief. It’s time we all started treating them as such.

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About Amy Jacober

Amy Jacober (PhD, Fuller Seminary) is a youth ministry veteran with ministry and teaching experience. She focuses on practical theology, urban ministry, theology & disability, and marginalized communities. She is a volunteer youth worker in her church and community, lead consultant with Youth Ministry Architects and serves on the Young Life Capernaum national board. In her free time she can be found playing with her three young children, husband, and oversized dog.