Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Why Are Youth Still Staying Away From Church?

    The Barna Group and David Kinnaman continue to share findings from their five-year project surveying youth and young adults on their reasons for disconnecting from the Church.  In particular, the study looked at those youth who had been active in church but are no longer.  The respondents shared many reasons but six major themes emerged for what seems to be keeping youth away from organized Christian faith:

    1) Churches seems overprotective (e.g. resist, demonize, and ignore real-world issues and problems).
    2) Youth experience Christianity in the Church as shallow (e.g. not relevant or connected to an experience of God.)
    3) Churches appear antagonistic to science.
    4) Churches take an overly-simplistic or judgmental view of sexuality.
    5) Youth struggle with exclusive claims of some Christian churches.
    6) Youth sees the Church as unfriendly to those who doubt. 

    Their findings suggest that churches ignore these issues at our own peril.  Twenty years ago we could rely on youth leaving the church for a few years, then marrying, starting a family and coming back.  This just isn't the case anymore for most youth. Adolescence stretches into the mid-to-late twenties and many young people put off school, career, and family much longer. Additionally, the internet and social media are exposing young people to a vastly diverse world of ideas, religious beliefs, and culture.  In other words, its a whole new ballgame.  I'm currently reading Kinnaman's latest book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith.  My review to follow soon.  

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Christian Haunted Houses: Scaring the "Hell" Out of Teens?

    It's that time of the year again. As Halloween approaches, I get to plug one of my favorite youth ministry documentaries : Hell House (see trailer above).  Let me be clear:  I love this documentary but couldn't disagree more with the subjects of the film: Christians who believe fear is an appropriate tool for bringing teens into discipleship in Christ. You can watch the entire documentary online here.

    Relatedly, my current essay at the Patheos site shares more about the nature of these "hell houses" and why I think there has to be a better way to evangelize youth:  

    But all these hell houses, supposedly aimed at pointing teens toward wholesome lifestyles, reek of irony. In their efforts to offer a Christian alternative to supposed pagan elements of Halloween, they end up using the worst cultural elements to attract teens: violence, sex, blood, and carnage. Perhaps most telling, according to the director of the Hell House documentary, is the apparent excitement expressed by the Christian teens who help to organize and present the gruesome scenarios. 

    You can read the entire essay and share your thoughts here

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Missional Youth Ministry...At A Glance

    Preparing for a recent presentation on our book, Missional Youth Ministry, I attempted to redesign a simple visual way to compare the earlier youth ministry paradigm known as "attractional youth ministry" and the emerging paradigm many would label "missional youth ministry" (you can click on the image above to see a larger version).  Though I resist suggesting these two views of ministry are in complete opposition to one another, I find it helpful to set them side-by-side to point out the differences.  In summary:

    Attractional Youth Ministry
    • The weekly meeting/worship service is the focus.
    • Marketing is used to bring participants into that meeting.
    • Evangelism is focused on making participants into members of the group/church.
    • Programming (Bible study, mission, fellowship, worship) is all designed to draw or attract participants into that weekly meeting and church membership.
    • Most of the work is done by professional or paid ministry staff.
    Missional Youth Ministry

    • The mission of the Church (big "C") is the focus.
    • Participants are sent out to embody that mission in the world.
    • Evangelism is primarily about living out and telling the good news.
    • Ministry, rather than programming, makes up the bulk of the activity. All activity (study, mission, fellowship, worship) is seen through the lens of "What is our mission?"
    • Strong emphasis on the priesthood of all believers -- empowering youth to find their own call within the ministry of the Church and to live it out in their daily lives. 
    Certainly there is overlap between the two models, but the greatest distinction is that one is more inwardly focused toward the Church as institution and the other more outwardly focused toward our call to ministry in our own daily context.  Your thoughts?  How might you change or tweak this model?  What is missing?  Does this connect with or push back against your understand of "missional?"

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Will Your Church Be Celebrating "Jesus-Ween?"

    An organization based in Calgary is inviting churches to participate this month in "Jesus-ween," an evangelistic alternative to Halloween.  This is a new twist on the old practice of giving out those creepy (and scripturally inaccurate) Jack Chick tracts, intended to scare kids in an entirely different way on Halloween night when they start reading the little comic somebody dropped in their goodie bag:

    What about your Church? Any alternatives planned for Halloween? Do you even see a need to provide an alternative to the cultural observance of Halloween?