Part two of my essay on the "distractional model" of youth ministry is now up at Patheos.com. This column follows a brief analysis in part one of the challenges inherent within the attractional model of youth ministry and suggests a different way forward:
What would happen if, for a season in our ministries, we gave ourselves permission to let go of using flash and noise to attract youth to God and instead trusted that what they might really desire is silence, contemplation, solitude, and prayer? What would happen if we let go for a time of the idea of trying to attract youth into our buildings and instead focused on helping them to experience God's presence in every aspect of their lives, particularly beyond the walls of the church? What if we decided to see what our youth programs might look like if we locked the doors of our youth rooms and sought to do ministry together out in the world?
You can read the entire column here. It's been an interesting exercise summing up my thoughts on attractional youth ministry recognizing the controversy over this model amongst our peers. For many years everyone jumped on the bandwagon, criticizing this approach of attracting teens to churches using whatever worked, whether it was faith-based or not. In the last year or so, the tide has shifted with some now arguing that it is not an either/or situation -- the attractional model can be a way to draw teens into a deeper Christian experience.
My realization in the last few days is that part of the divide on this model may reflect the difference between evangelicals and progressives. In the progressive church there is very little emphasis on reaching youth as a means toward their salvation. With no talk of hell looming over our heads, we simply aren't motivated to draw in scores of unsaved teens for fear of what will happen to them if we don't. Our focus is more likely to be on the youth already in our churches, challenging them to walk the way of Christ and to invite others to do the same.
So, all this to say that I'm still thinking about this debate and open to learning more from others, particularly those who have found the attractional approach useful and those who are seeking other approaches. Any thoughts on all this? We'd welcome hearing from you.