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Youth Ministry Revisited Pt. 2

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In my ongoing rethinking of how we approach ministry to students, I have come across a great article written by Walt Mueller, the President of The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding.

Read the article here.

In it he gives 13 ways to effectively reach today's postmodern youth culture, many involve changing the ways in which it has "always been done." I appreciated his calling to continually evaluate our approach.

He states, "While the content of the Word always remains unchanged, the way we do ministry should be constantly evaluated. There is no room for sacred cows. If the message isn’t getting through because of dated methods, new ones should be prayerfully sought and adopted in order to effectively communicate the Good News. However, we must adopt only those methods that are faithful to the unchanging Word. And we must never assume that methodologies can do what only relationships can."

May we never get so trapped in our methodology, and even traditions, that we fail to see that continued evaluation is needed.

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Youth Ministry Revisited

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I have been in youth ministry now for over 20 years. It has been a great 2o years and I have seen many lives changed and have seen God do great things! As great as it has been, I see a need for change.

Over the last year God has been showing me that we need to re-think how we do ministry. I believe we have in many ways alienated students from what God desires of the church. We have in essence created a church within a church. A church in which we temporarily attract students, and then ask them to leave upon graduation. This is not right.

For many years we have used an entertainment model of ministry designed to keep students engaged and happy. This model of ministry inspired by parachurch youth ministries from the 1950's is the chief model in which most youth ministries are built on. Through this attractional model we have atttracted many students, but are they really following after Jesus and engaging with the church as God desires? Sadly many, dare I say most, are not. There is someting wrong when we see statistics like this:
  • According to Dr. Gary Railsback up to 50% of evangelical college freshman will forsake their Christian beliefs by their senior year of college.
  • According to George Barna (in Third Millenium Teens) 2 out of 3 Christian teens will evacuate the church after they graduate from high school. In addition 63% of our teens don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God, 58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths, 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead and 70% don’t believe an absolute moral truth exists. (Taken from www.gregstier.org.)
I am also bothered when I read the honest thoughts of this high school student who worte a post on her blog entitled, Why I've Given Up On Youth Group. I agree with her. Students want to go deeper with their faith; students deserve to go deeper. We must get away from the "entertain me" mentality that has defined youth ministry for so long and get back to what Jesus desires...sacrifice. He desires that we fully and completely seek after Him and serve Him with our lives (Romans 12:-2).

Mark Yaconelli puts it well in his book Contemplative Youth Ministry when he says, "While such ministries may keep youth entertained, they often keep youth distracted from the deeper rhythms and practices of the Christian faith. Programs and activities are chosen based on the level of excitement that's generated. No one wants to act like an adult for fear of scaring the kids. Leaders become hesitant to engage youth in any activity that is in contrast to the consumer culture. Prayer, spiritual exercises, theological conversation, and spiritual disciplines that challenge the status quo are dumped out of fear that youth may cry 'This is like school!' or 'You're just like our parents!' or (worst of all) 'This is boring.' So the ministry never addresses the deeper needs of youth, never challenges them to explore the alternative way of Jesus. Like children's television programming that seeks to keep kids attentive so they'll watch the commercials, our ministries of diversion respond to young people's most carnal appetites so we can slip in a five-minute Bible study or parade them through the church building." (p. 45)

Should youth ministry be fun? Absolutley! Should it attract others? Absolutely! The question is what are we attracting students to...entertainment or ministry? It is my prayer that the church begins to closely evaluate how we are ministering to students and thus begin to develop models that draw students into a lifelong love relationship with Jesus that is producing fruit for the Kingdom of God.

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