Have you heard about these latest studies that show less and less youth are coming to church for worship or youth group activities? What interests me in all this is the assumption that our primary goal is to get teens into our church buildings, as if that is where ministry primarily happens. But we know that isn't the case. Deep and significant ministry with teens is actually more likely to happen when out in the community doing a service project, while traveling on a mission trip, during a shared cup of coffee at the local Starbucks, or in a small group gathering at a youth's home.
If more than 50% of our youth ministry programs happen within the four walls of our church buildings, maybe it's time to rethink our approach. Instead of putting so much energy into enticing teens to come into our buildings, we might consider joining with them out in the world, engaging with each other and our faith in the everydayness of life and culture. The "no standing" sign is a reminder to us to move out of our cloistered and controlled youth rooms and programs and seek ways to help youth live out the mission of the church in the real world they experience everyday. Perhaps we continue to gather weekly in the youth room, but only briefly and then we head out into the city for mission projects, or to engage in Bible study in places related to our topic (e.g. sit by a river for a discussion of baptism; tour a local mall for a discussion on possessions and greed). Maybe we spend less time gathering as one big group and more time in small groups in people's homes or public spaces. Maybe instead of focusing so much of our time each week planning the Wednesday night group Bible study, we spend most of our time visiting youth and family in their homes, inviting them to share their prayer concerns and challenges of faith.
How would such an approach change the way you engage in ministry to youth? How might your congregation react? How would this new way change the goals and focus of your ministry?
See part one of this series here.