Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    WHAT IF?

    What if church "youth ministry" did not = "youth groups"?

    What if our focus was not on providing activities for youth already in the church? What if youth ministry tried harder to push kids out into the world rather than draw them into the Church?

    What if we only gathered each week as a way to prepare to go out and "be Christ"in our communities?

    What if Jesus could tells us what he thinks about all our time in youth ministry spent bowling, watching movies, eating junk food, playing games, taking ski trips?
    What if ...?


    Tanya Heasley said...

    I co-run a youth group at my church. I think without a youth group, there would be no youth ministry.

    I also think that hanging out with young people bowling, eating junk food and going on ski trips is what Jesus would do. And when He does that, He loves them, supports them, talks to them, listens to them, cares for them and 'teaches' them, because as a representative of Jesus, that's what we do with our youth.

    Brian said...

    Tanya, Thanks for your comment. I also run a youth group and have for many years and frankly, I have trouble envisioning church-based youth ministry any other way. As this blog is focused on "Rethinking Youth Ministry," I was thinking outloud as to whether there might be other ways to go about it. I wonder that our groups often become too inwardly focused (as do churches) so that we spend much of our time trying to make our members happy so they'll keep coming, rather than focusing them outward on the needs of others who have not yet found a church home.

    I also agree that Jesus met people wherever they were, in the midst of their daily lives and routines. However, it doesn't always naturally follow that loving, listening, caring, teaching, and supporting is going on in the midst of all the recreation youth groups do. It can, but it might not. The telling factor here is, do the youth stop coming when the ski trips, bowling, etc. drop off the youth schedule? Many youth groups experience exactly this phenomenon.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

    Steve said...

    After years of reflection and now removed from "paid ministry"... and in conjunction with my other post on "Youth Misery" that you mentioned earlier... I have a thought...

    Why not just have fun with kids? I think we try to have our kids "grow up" too fast in so many ways, and this includes the church too.

    If my kid was going to be involved with church now, I would want one that majored on fun and activities and minored on "discipleship". Keep them in a positive environment, thinking positive thoughts and around positive people. Avoid manipulation and an over-abundance of conformity to dogma... which leads, at times, to an unhealthy "guilt-trip" mentality that kids have to weed through as they mature.

    Relax with kids, talk with them, be their encouragers... they will let you know when they are ready to go deeper from there. That's my thoughts for now...

    Brian said...

    Steve, so great to have you post here! I'm right there with you when it comes to avoiding manipulation and conformity to dogma. Both of us who author this blog come from what many would label a "liberal" or "progressive" theology. I never seen it as my role to tell kids what to think or believe or trust. In fact, I often encourage them to challenge what the Church teaches or what they think the Bible "says" and to wrestle it for themselves.

    I also hear what you are saying about keeping the focus on fun and positive stuff rather than disciple-making. My one concern here is that our culture is great at producing folks who are pretty self-centered, primarily focused on trying to stay happy all the time, which gets you nowhere.
    I don't want to be fueling that attitude in youth. So I do see a need to temper the positivity of buiding loving community with the challenges we find in scripture to help others, even when it's not fun or easy.

    All that said, I appreciate your particular perspective on all this, which is different from mine own at this point in life.

    Jacob said...

    All of these comments have been great. I think events and activities are crucial to a successful youth ministry. But, I think our youth also crave faith and spirituality. If you only do fun activities, the church becomes a club. In addition, it's been my experience that if you only do youth fellowship, each event has to be one step up from the previous activity in order to maintain interest. On the other hand, if you want to create disciples and encourage youth to see the world in an alternative view there has to be spiritual development. This is achieved, I believe, through fellowship, Bible study, worship, critical reflection and personal transormation.

    Steve said...

    Glad to be here and thanks for allowing me the privilege to share...

    One of the things that hit me about my "past life" was how much we didn't focus on individual happiness... making yourself happy, learning how to take care of your own emotional and spiritual needs individually. However, a key to being happy is to think of others needs as well...and how we can be a part of eliminating suffering and struggle in the lives of others. Balance is key...and teaching that personal balance to young people is important.

    Steve said...

    Jacob... yes youth crave faith and spirituality and at this stage are just now beginning to "own" their beliefs as opposed to just accepting the faith of their parents or other adults...and that should be encouraged and freedom to doubt should be as much a part of the process as the conformity of belief.

    That being said, I am not so certain each event has to be greater than the last to keep kids interest. It may be our approach to our jobs as youth pastor that keeps us needing to have "bigger and better" events or games or activities. Providing kids a place to hang, to socialize and to just be kids in a safe place without adult interference would be important I think for churches to consider... just a thought.

    You don't have to forsake the spiritual element...just put it in perspective and make it age-apprpriate I think.

    Dan said...

    I think you'd wind up getting closer to the essence of what the concept of discipleship is all about. Instead of drawing kids to us, and leading them around the building for 2 hours a week, we'd be leading kids out into the world, driving them towards God's creation and, ultimately, God.

    However, the structure of society has changed a bit since Jesus' day. So kids now need a bit more enculturation from additional sources, like youth pastors, and a bit more family structures, like the church family. Issues discussed in "Generation on Hold" by Allahar & Cote, or in "Hurt" by Chap Clark...issues the church has to take up the slack for.

    I think we wind up with the result being that we have to live and minister in the tension between bringing kids in-loving and enculturating them, and sending them out to "be Christ" to the world.

    And, in practicality, the ministry you speak of has not been implemented more because youth minister salaries would very quickly disappear from church line item budgets.