Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Youth Ministry 3.0?

Scot McKnight started a discussion about youth ministry, called Youth Ministry 3.0, today along with a brief intro to a book by a guy named Marko. It seemes like an appropriate focus for discussion considering recent emails about the coming collapse (or decline?) of contemporary evangelical church.

Here is the post:

I sat down the other day with a youth pastor and asked a direct question that I've asked a number of youth leaders: "What percentage of your youth become adult, mature Christians?"

His response: "You want the truth?"

I said, "Of course."

His answer: "About 25%."

We both sat there, fumbling our coffee cups, looking at one another, nothing said and nothing to be said. In grief and wonder we searched for what we might do together to change the course of the church. His numbers are about average for evangelical churches. I wonder if some youth pastors would sit down, think for 15 minutes or so over the last few years and what has become of their youth. What "worked" and what "didn't work"? Listen to these ruggedly honest words from Mark Oestreicher:

"The way we're doing things is already not working. We're failing at our calling. And deep down, most of us know it. This is why we need an epochal shift in our assumptions, approaches, models, and methods."

The book the quote is taken from is called:

Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto of Where We've Been, Where We Are & Where We Need to Go.


Brian Emmet said...

Well, let me get things started. I think we've been on the wrong foot for a while with the whole concept of "youth ministry". The approach buys into the cultural assumptions of consumerism, generational analysis (kids and parents, because they come from duifferent "generations," cannot understand or relate to each other), the furthering fracturing of families (and hence, the church), the prolongation of childhood into an increasingly meaningless and ever-lengthening "adolescence", and some others that will no doubt be noted. We've also become so afraid to say anything that smacks of authority (AND have spoken "authoritatively" in so many foolish and wrong ways)instead of a suggestion that younger people tend to take us at our word: you don't have anything to offer us except well-meaning advice.

This may actually present a golden opportunity for the R Catholic, Anglican and perhaps the Orthodox--people are fed up with what they perceive of as evangelical culture, but, since we are formed by God to respond to good, godly authority, they may come looking for someone who's not afraid to tell them what it means and what it looks like to follow Jesus.

John M. said...

It would be interesting to do a pole of young adults who were home schooled by Christian parents to see who they compare with the typical youth group percentage.

Brian Emmet said...

Yes, it would! Anyone can track that down for us?

steve H said...

Our church is small so our figures may not be statistically significant to most of you; however, we praise God often for the grace we have seen on our youth.

We moved from a home group to becoming a "church" in March 1991. In all those years, only one of our young people from the families who stayed in our church through most of their children's school age years has left the Lord or the church. (We've not given up on that one by any means, but there is little we can do at this point outside of prayer.)

That same thing is not true for families who were with us for a while but then left our church for some reason -- even though, as far as I know, all those families got involved in another church. Most, if not all, of those families have had at least one child stray.

We have seen four grow up and start families so far. We have a single man who has become a local policeman. We have a single young lady who is working in a local Christian bookstore We have 5 in college and 1 in a Master's Commission program at the moment. And we have several more in high school and they appear to be coming along real well.

Why? Obviously, the grace of God first. Second, are the families themselves. Most home schooled and all put a high priority both on training their children and building their family identity into the body of Christ. Third, I would think is the way the families support one another and the way the whole church body supports the families and incorporates the young people into its life. Fourth, most of our young adults have gone through the School of Strategic Life Training and Christian Worldview (SLT), a program developed by Dennis Peacocke's ministry that involves national event, regional events and local mentoring.

We have had a youth group of sorts but its function is mostly to give opportunities for youthful fellowship and activities and to encourage the youth to walk faithfully with the Lord, their family, and the church. Its strength has been the breadth of ages from young adults to junior high which allows the older ones to be friends and role models to the younger.

I am not bragging here, just reporting. We have no right to brag, only to be grateful!

If I had any wisdom to offer though, it would be to avoid age-based peer groups and to incorporate our children and youth into the mainstream life of the community. We try to remember that the "church" is a community living life together, not a set of meetings.

Way too many young people resent high commitment churches because their parents seem more committed to church than family. On the other hand if families operate independently without integrating into the life of a community, then that family is modeling independence.

joe 6-pack said...

I agree with much of what you say Brian, although I think that there might be a valid case for a distinct ‘youth culture’ that has emerged since the mid-part of the twentieth century. I agree that this may be a golden opportunity for the traditional liturgical churches – I really think some of you guys that pastor stable, healthy covenant communities should look into Robert’s connections with the “Anglican Mission” out of Ruwanda. I am concerned about what you (Brian, Steve, Kevin, Dennis Coll) will do in 10 or more years when you are no longer able to lead the church. Being part of a larger institutional infrastructure (especially with 2000 years of history) might be helpful in such a transition.

Regarding stats about home schooled youth, I bet Barna has it somewhere.

Steve: you have always emphasized two things: authentic discipleship and intentional community. And you have done an exceptionally good job of implementing both in your church.

By far the most influential element in determining if a young person will continue in the faith is the home. If the parents walk the talk, and model authentic faith and discipleship for their children, the odds rise dramatically that the children will adopt the faith of their fathers (and mothers). Authentic discipleship tends to strengthen this authentic faith in the home.

And of course, living in intentional community gives a context where young people can “belong.” Interestingly, the conversation on the jesuscreed blog about youth ministry emphasized the “affinity” factor.

We had a good God-party last night. Only 6 of the young men came, but one of them brought a study on Titus chapter 1. I sent two of the guys your notes, and they appreciated them and read through them.

joe 6-pack said...

PS: the discussion about youth ministry was continued today with a part 2, on Jesuscreed at Belief.net.

david said...

brian, this article may give more food for thought related to your first comment


Bama Stephen said...

Brian, this is a very important topic, and I appreciate what you guys have said. The failure of "youth ministries" and churches to make true disciples of Jesus Christ is appalling ... and I say that as someone who has been fairly active in youth ministry for more than 25 years.

What you guys said about home life - parental love, modeling, consistency - being the key is right on. And, it is illuminating, because too often we have divorced "youth ministry" from the whole church community. While it is at times good for young people to have "their own" place and expression, it needs to fit within the larger whole.

We've too often catered to the carnal natural desire to be wayward, rebellious, self-centered, ego-tripping, consumerist, attention deficient, and entertainment addicted. We thought that by doing so, we could somehow appease or please or entice young people to stick around and maybe - with a little luck - some religion would stick to them. Wrong!

We need to employ every biblical method for empathy, identification, and outreach while at the same time being true to the Cross and to the Faith ... not to candy-coat the necessity of dying to self and being discipled.

An inter-generational, family-based approach tends to be much more effective in the long run.