It doesn't matter how far over you are on the old 3 months or 3,000 miles rule. They don't ask what kind of crazy racecar driving you have been doing. They don't care why you are not doing it yourself or judge you--- they just go to work. They are like the tagline says a "well oiled machine" that keeps your machine well oiled too.
Why do we go to Jiffy Lube and its various competitors? We go because we don't want to get dirty. We go because it is quick and convenient. We go because we don't want to do the work ourselves. It is not because we don't know how to do it or couldn't easily learn. My dad taught me how to change my oil and check my fluids. He imparted all kinds of helpful advice when I turn 16 about how to keep my car running right. I quickly discovered though with a very fast trip and a couple dollars someone else could do it all for me... no mess, no fuss, no scraped up knuckles, and no laying on the hard cold driveway.
It occurred to me the other day as I was talking to yet another set of parents about how I should fix their child that sometimes we become the "spiritual jiffy lube guy (*or gals)". We are the quick, convenient place and person to fix your child when things start "running a little rough" at home, relationships start "gumming up" or the spiritual things at home are just not getting the same "mileage". They don't want to do the hard work themselves, get under the hood and get dirty, instead they stop by when its convenient in their schedules for a quick fix and spiritual tune up. I think its time we put a stop to this or at least slow down the traffic!
5 things to keep you from becoming a Jiffy Lube JH Ministry:
1. 3000 Mile Check Up.
You know you have done it, peeled the reminder sticker off the window before you pulled into the parking lot of the oil change place. You were embarrassed at how long it had been since your last oil change and how far over the 3,000 miles you have driven.
The same things happens with your students and parents. They pretend like they have been around and that you didn't notice they haven't been to church in 3 months. Surprise! they are back and looking for a "quick fix" of Jesus to make it all better. A simple observation in my years working with students. If they are not here for a few weeks, they are struggling or will be struggling soon! Human, sinful nature is if you are struggling or living in sin you run away from God (and church) not to Him (*see the story of Adam and Eve)
We need to start watching and being aware when students and families are not around and their attendance is slipping. People want to know you notice when they are not there and also they love to be missed, so give a quick contact. You will gain, not lose when you do. You and your ministry need to be reaching out and reaching in to lives before its to late. Find a way to track attendance or keep track of who has not been around.
2. Teaching the At-Home Oil Change.
Just like my dad taught me, we need to teach "at home" maintenance. Step #2 in the process is teaching parents and students how to live the Christian life outside of Sunday morning and your youth ministry. Teach them how to address and face the issues of life on their own. As a youth pastor we love to be needed but we need to be constantly trying to "work ourselves out of a job". It probably will never happen, but we need to seek to give parents the tools to do the hard work of spiritual discipleship for themselves. No more, quick drop off, "you fix my kid for me", I will be back in an hour. The simple fact is we are only around for a couple years of a student's life at best, their parents are their parents for a life time. They need to be doing the hard work for the long haul, way beyond our time.
3. High Performance Oil.
You know the stuff, the high test oil they always offer when you first pull in the Jiffy Lube. For a few buck more you can have the scientist tested super supreme of oils. Instead of just getting the generic cheap stuff you have have the brand-name that the race car drivers use.
How about us, do we offer the best of best stuff straight up with no option, when it comes to our ministries. When we do have the student's here in our teaching times. Let's bring the best of the best of the scriptures to them. No cheap tricks and fillers, but fill our student's tanks with the high quality stuff that is going to keep their spiritual live running at top performance. Especially in the JH/MS, we need to choice to do more then "children's ministry plus", but real TRUE 6th,7th,8th grade specifically formulated lessons and study.
You know the warning lights of your students, and you also know that students and parents who won't come in until they absolutely have to. Like my bus driver at my last church a few years ago, who ran the bus with out oil in it, even though the warning lights were on. He ran it until the engine literally exploded. Our students and parent like a good driver should be taught what the warning lights are and what they might mean. We as leaders will save ourselves so much work as well. We need to stop wimping out on addressing issues, start calling sin-"sin", and be willing to "speak the truth in love". Honestly, who cares if its another pastor's kid or a deacon's daughter. We need to yank the emergency brake and pull them over to the side (literally!). It is not easy and you will get the "how dare you!" but it is well worth it in the long run.
5. The Shop is Closed.
Jiffy lube does not fix your brakes or do tires. You can not pull in and expect in 15 minutes or less they will replace a blown engine or even change all your tires, pit-crew style. They do one thing and one thing well!
We need to start refusing to be the quick fix for students and parents. One quick counseling session or 2 weeks worth of showing up for church will fix all the problems. It is not the truth and we can't enable people to believe that it is. You know as well as I do the Christian road is every day, all day and it is hard work. It is constant maintenance, up keep, and being aware of the troubles that we all face. It about time we say "Nope, sorry the shop is closed". We are available when people need us of course. We are always willing to listen and help, but also make it is time we make it known that when they come to us they are committing to a real, long term solution for the road ahead. We need to let them know, there is not Jiffy Lube for the spiritual life!