His name is Dave, but he likes children to call him Pastor D.
“I have the best job in the world,” Dave (Jeff Ryan) said on camera. But, of course, he is lying. I’m sure being a young pastor brings huge rewards, but it is perhaps the hardest job in the ministry, and Dave has it harder than most. Goth Deb rolls her eyes every time he opens his mouth. Steven in glasses will not speak at all. And he just got a co-pastor – a pregnant, single, super nice assistant named Rachel (Tori Hines). And she makes him a little nervous.
“I would try to keep the pregnancy on the DL in front of the kids,” Dave told Rachel, very visibly pregnant.
But whatever. Dave has a job to do! So he consumes about a dozen energy drinks a day, solemnly preaches purity using a rigged water bottle, and rejoices in Camp Changed, which he hopes for as well as his names. He wants to see his children changed during the three day summer camp. He wants them to get closer to God, to each other and to him so that he can, you know, keep his job and everything.
Oh, but most of all, he really wants to win the traditional three-day camp competition and humiliate his big rival, youth pastor Jacob (Matt Perusse).
That’s right, Jacob would need a little humility — and maybe a Bible focus. “We cannot lose! ” It’s thundering. “We are the Legion! But maybe Dave also has his priorities a little off.
YouthMin: a mock documentary, directed by Ryan and Arielle Cimino and produced with the lowest price, is smart, fun and definitely not a Christian film. Damn, if a young pastor dares to show it to his own groups, he’ll be full of surprises.
But while he mocks over-school-too-cool purity sermons and serves up plenty of uncomfortable sex gags, it’s also – perhaps unintentionally – a great illustration of how youth ministry can go wrong. … At least if you’re a certain type of kid.
As a teenager, I was never a big fan of my church youth group. It was invariably run by much more competent versions of Pastor D, and I was a bit like Steven (calm and uncomfortable) and Deb (cynical and secretly studious). I was not particularly popular neither in school nor in church, and all the nights full of energy and games at the youth group increased my feeling of alienation and pushed me further and further. . If I had had my way I would have ditched pizza nights and dodgeball tournaments and just talked about God. Maybe dig into the scriptures or dive into volunteer opportunities. Looking back, it must be an act of the Almighty that I am still a Christian.
Youth groups, at least in big churches like mine, are really built around cool kids. It’s a strategy, from what I’ve heard from youth ministers: you chain the teen leaders, and the rest will follow. And for many, more attendance equals success. But invariably, adolescence is filled with children on the fringes. Some would like to be in the crowd but cannot. Others just won’t. And sometimes I wonder if the bangs are much bigger than you think.
And even for those who love youth groups, faith can be a tricky discipline once they leave it. According to a study by Lifestyle research66 percent of young adults who attended church regularly as teenagers leave it, at least for a year, as adults.
Why? I think we can see why in Pastor D.
Pastor D — when he was just Dave — loved the youth group. “Youth pastor Jimmy was the coolest guy I know,” he says. For Dave, the youth ministry worked the way it was supposed to.
But he’s dealing with a bunch of kids who don’t look like him at all. He doesn’t know how to reach them, so instead, he digs deeper into what reached him: Fun. Games. Jokes. Sports. Energy. Meanwhile, Rachel is just talking to the kids. And they respond.
Dave learns something that every believer learns at some point: truly following Jesus is not a game. It is not always fun. It is about accepting tears with laughter, community and sometimes sacrifice.
YouthMin is not a Christian film. It’s not meant to be a Christian movie. But it gets the nature of faith – real faith – better than you might expect.
YouthMin will be available on April 28 as video on demand everywhere great videos are sold online, like iTunes, Amazon and Vimeo.