Monday, August 31, 2009

    THE END OF YOUTH MINISTRY? A Message from the Future

    A blog post finds it's way to us all the way from the future - 2059 AD:

    "Who would have thought with all the dire predictions making the rounds during the first decade of the 2000's that youth ministry would still be going strong in the year 2059? Yet here we are -- looking a little different, perhaps -- but still here. What a difference a few decades make. I doubt many of those youth ministers from the early part of this century (remember the short-lived iphone fad of the early 2000's?) would recognize the youth ministry of today. Just think of some of the changes that have taken place:

    We stopped giving youth just what they wanted (pizza! crowds! video games! paintball!) and started giving them more of what they needed (and helped them to see why they needed it.)

    We realized youth didn't need "bigger and better" (mission trips to more and more exotic locations, huge evangelism events in football stadiums, louder and louder rock concerts) -- they needed smaller, more meaningful experiences that allowed them to experience God's love in the midst of daily life.

    We came to understand that our youth didn't need entertainment -- they needed engagement -- engagement in the Church's work of peace and justice.

    It finally dawned on us that they didn't need more pop culture (no more helping the consumer culture in its seduction of our youth) -- they needed timeless truths that help them live the way of Jesus.

    We figured out that they didn't need hype -- they needed sabbath rest.

    We discovered that our teens didn't really just need charming, young, good-looking, sporty, charismatic leaders -- they need caring, mature, companions in faith. Today that still includes seminary-educated pastors (though not as many as 50 years ago and most of them are now bivocational and have a lot more training in educational theory and adolescent development), as well as lay leaders who bring a whole host of life and career experiences to the ministry.

    Perhaps most surprisingly, our churches figured out that "giving youth their own space/place in the Church" didn't need to mean "separate spaces and places" but just room to grow and learn and minister alongside of everyone else in the Church. In fact, now we hardly spend anytime at all in the church building itself. Our youth ministry is happening out in the world, in the neighborhoods, at school, in the homeless shelters, the nursing homes, the community gardens, the protest rallies, and wherever there is need to hear the transforming message of the gospel."


    Joel Mayward said...

    Fantastic post! I hope we'll see this far sooner than 50 years from now. Especially interesting is the idea of a bivocational youth pastor trained in education and adolescent development. I've been debating getting a masters in education instead of a master of divinity, as I already have a bible/theology undergrad and would love to be able to work in a local school and experience a nonChristian grad program.

    KaGe said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    KaGe said...

    Does this mean that the retirement age is over 75 years 50 years from now? Because I don't know about you, but I don't want to be bivocational at 75 years old...unless that means being a par-time youth pastor and collecting a Social Security check...or whatever feebly budgeted program they have 50 years from now.

    Good post though...somehow the future knew to send this information back at what seems to be at just the right time.

    Brian said...

    Joel, I imagine we will see this sooner than 50 years from now. I think your idea of focusing on education is great, particularly if you plan to keep working with youth. Of course, most seminaries will offer an array of education courses so you could do both!

    KaGe, I think the suggestion about bivocational pastors was just a way to acknowledge that the Christian Church in the U.S. is rapidly shrinking. If the trend continues, many churches 50 years from now will not be in a position to hire a full-time minister, let alone a youth pastor. We may be returning to the New Testament model of small house churches and a great deal of lay leadership, and I think that might be just what the Church needs to get its focus back. Of course, these sorts of changes will have a huge impact on the 20-somethings that will be entering our seminaries in the next few decades.

    Amico di Magone said...

    Great post! I love the focus on the intimate environment instead of falling into the temptation of stimulating the youth in the way that our society already does. As youth pastors, we are called to accompany the young in their faith journey (and develop meaningful Christ-centered relationships with them), so that their hearts may be opened to the voice of God, who is constantly speaking to us all.
    As Elijah heard God's voice in the stillness, so too can we find God's voice in the sill, yet engaging, dialectic with one another.
    I also love how this article stresses the importance of not being self-righteous in our ministry - that we are not dumping Jesus on the youth, but developing the strong bonds of Church as the body of Christ, and seeing Him in one another.

    I also don't want to neglect to mention that we are sensual beings. our ministry must still be stimulating and joyful! This is to say that the big concerts and all the other hype is not a negative thing. They are essential to the extent that the joy it produces is not the end goal, and that we must not lose the community building focus. In my experience, the big events are useful for many reasons, but I'll mention a few:
    -they are very inviting for newcomers and help them feel comfortable enough to take the next step into the love they experience in the community.
    -the Spirit works in us in a way that nourishes our senses, and not simply stimulates them.
    -it is a way to encourage spontaneity, and allows us all (youth and ministers) to be our true selves with one another.

    As for the bivocational commentary, I'm not too sure if I understand the word itself. I think its implication is that there will be more people with a "regular" job as well as an official role as a youth pastor. I think this would be great, however, I think that a better description would be that Christians would grow deeper into the understanding of their own vocation. Must we define ourselves as one thing or another, or define ourselves as what we do, or should we define ourselves as what we are? It may not be ideal to compartmentalize our vocation and say that we have multiple vocations, but simply that we are okay with defining our vocation in ways outside the common labels.
    That being said, it's still very important that we have people completely dedicated to certain ministries, but it's just a important, and just as valuable, for people to have "normal" jobs and minister to the youth as well.
    As for the higher degrees, I think there will be more of a focus on pastoral ministry than on theology in the future. It is vital for people to be well educated in a way that a masters in divinity does, but more of a specific course of formation for youth pastors will be key in the progress of youth ministry, especially with the new challenges which face both youth and ministers in this day and age.

    Cheryl said...

    Great post. It gives one a lot to think about. All of the points you made are very valid ones. At the same time, I also think that there needs to be some excitement sometimes.

    youth ministries

    noob blogger 101 said...

    i really appreciate this post. i am a new youth pastor who grew up with a lot of the those same hypes that you mentioned (the not-needed ones). so when it comes time to consider what to plan... i tend to think that we need to plan those same types of things. but my fiance and i (co-directors) time and again find that the youth desire the more personal, simple, and direct link to Christ and fellowship.

    thanks for the encouragement :)

    Brian said...

    noob blogger 101 - Glad you found the post helpful and good luck in your efforts. It can be very hard to resist the temptation to create a program/activity driven youth ministry rather than a Christ-centered youth ministry. Perhaps if more of us put the focus back on the simple things, others will follow.

    Maverick PCTK said...

    Dear Brian,

    Great Post. Going to see if some of the ideas will work here.

    They are inspirational.

    God Bless!