Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Failure of Youth Ministry

Many youth ministry observers and practicioners have agreed that past models of youth ministry have, by and large, been a failed experiment. Youth ministry as a separate entity of the church is reletively young, in fact the concept of a teenager is reletively young...and western. Recently, Marko has even mea culpa'd for YS on this very subject. The main reason for this admission has been the mass exodus form the church, even Christianity, that comes shortly after graduation. The main goal of youth ministry has, seemingly, been promoting youth ministry instead of...gospel, kingdom, discipleship, sanctification, the church, etc. I really believe in youth ministry - but I don't believe in youth ministry that ends up being a stupid waste of time. Honestly, what kind of a theology helps people be Christians for 6-7 years and then drops them into the abyss (you can be creative with what you think I mean by the abyss...).

While in the car the other day, I wondered if there may be some other very important as well. Here's what I thought of, please add your own thoughts...

1. Perhaps sin is more terrible than many of us think. Maybe is hardens hearts to such a calloused pussbag that it just cannot be broken any longer. If there's one thing I enjoy most about serving teenagers is there incredible capacity to love - whether it's a member of the opposite sex, their family, a sport, or God - they love with total abandon.

2. Perhaps the devil's temptations are harder to resist after high school, when a student losses the support of community. Maybe this is part of the reason that small groups are so important for spiritual development throughout life.

3. Perhaps youth ministry has grown up with sucky theology; we've been so conversion focused that we've forgotten that many teenagers still have a long way to live after salvation. Moreover, perhaps western theology of sucess (as opposed to faithfulness) is absolutely killing our kids. At what point are we going to stop and consider the eternal implications of over-scheduling a generation of teenagers? At what point are we going to start teaching parents of 8 year olds how to raise a teenager that follows Jesus all the way./

4. Perhaps the larger church abandoned teenagers. The best youth ministries I have ever seen have students who know that their church loves them - more than the carpet, more than orderliness, more than sterilized worship, more than themselves.

5. ?what do you think?


T said...

Maybe a once a year donation to youth ministry isn't enough to show teenagers that the church supports them. The very people that volunteer shows the youth what? That only twenty and thirty year olds are interested in them? That can't be true but no one else seems active with the high schoolers on a week to week basis.

John said...

I think the major error has been in our lack of disciple making, and along with this our outlook on Christianity as being something you can live in an ordinary life.

We convert students, we get them to answer Christ's call, and then we refuse to push them towards discipleship. Somehow, we make Christianity weak and watered down, easy to stomach, instead of the enormous life-changing belief that it is. We don't call students any further then we think is appropriate for there tastes. Instead we focus on evangelism and light missions (week long excursions where little is learned and less is taught), and let the majority of the youth be okay with simply attending church once, or sometimes twice a week. We don't challenge them to take the call seriously. We handle with care, and try to build up self-esteem so our group keeps growing, and so more are converted.

We need to drastically reinterpret the role students can have in the church, and confirm that they can be disciples just as much as anyone else. We need to stop expecting less of them because they are young.

I guess at the bottom of it we need to challenge the youth, look at them with open eyes, and stop focusing on simple conversion.