When I was hired in June, 2006, PPL gave me the job title of "Associate Integrator." Pretty ambiguous. If you didn't know me (which you might not), or if you didn't look at my bio, you would have no clue what that job title means. "Do you work in HR?" "Or perhaps you sit in a windowless room with a pencil, paper, and a calculator and solve calculus problems all day."
The real definition of my job would likely fall under system integration. Personally, I prefer the term software developer, because it just makes sense. I develop software at work, so shouldn't I be a "software developer?" Even "programmer" would make more sense, though programming is only a part of my job.
For the past 2 1/2 years, I've been trying to figure out where this term "Integrator" could be correctly applied - or at least in a way that makes sense to me. Little did I know that I would find the answer in youth ministry.
For about as long as I have been working, I have volunteered at a youth group in Bethlehem. Recently, the responsibility has become much more like a job or vocation in itself. When I think of the lives of teens in general, the first term that comes to mind is "abandonment," especially after reading Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers by Chap Clark. Hurt has some alarming statistics and stories about teens lacking relationships within the adult community. As a more recent entrant into this adult community, I can attest to that as well. To stave the effects of a cultural "systemic abandonment", our society calls for people who are willing and able to invest their lives in the youth - not necessarily with an agenda in mind, but rather, with a heart and passion toward helping teens define and pursue their dreams.
To do this within the church, youth need to be integrated into the body. (Not to be confused with imperialism or assimilation) This means that the church needs to reach out to our youth and let them know that they are not only tolerated but accepted as they are. Additionally, the church needs to invest in them and help them achieve their God-given potential by providing direction and providing the means for the youth to succeed.
In a nutshell, the church needs a bunch of Integrators to step forward and lead the effort to help the youth feel accepted within the church and for the church to be accepted by the youth. As an Integrator, I need to pray about who God is preparing as mentors, facilitators, and prayer warriors for the youth. I need to develop a plan to initiate the call to ministry. But most importantly, I need help.
So when it comes to my "philosophy of ministry," I have to resign that God has not called me to be a pulpit teacher, nor has he called me to be an "army of one." I know now that my purpose is to integrate and to strive to bring the church closer together.