We’re doing a series on the future of youth ministry this week. The first post answered the question why the future of youth ministry matters and why you as a youth worker should care. Yesterday’s post showed us three important lessons we can learn from the past of youth ministry. Today we’ll take a look at what is happing in youth ministry right now.
I think youth ministry at present is on the move. It feels like there’s something in the air, like we’re on the brink of something big. While I’ve never been a pessimist in general, my heart really is on fire for what I see happening in youth ministry right now.
I see people doing solid research on how we can teach a faith that survives coming into adulthood (Sticky Faith)
I see churches moving even further away from attractional to relational youth ministry
I see youth pastors trying to get the parents of their youth involved
I see theology gaining ground in youth ministry
I see social justice becoming more important
I see churches of different denominations finding each other and working together to reach young people with the Gospel
I see youth leaders challenging the cultural and sociological status quo (extended adolescence)
I see youth workers adapting to the challenges of reaching a postmodern generation, especially in Europe
I see a renewed interest in ‘old’ contemplative practices like prayer routines, solitude and fasting
I see youth pastors loving youth with a incredible passion and doing everything within their might to reach them
But when I look at the present in youth ministry, I also see things that worry me. I see:
Youth workers struggling with finding the balance between work and personal life to the point of a burn out or divorce
Youth workers falling prey to sexual sins, sadly sometimes even within their youth ministry
Youth workers changing jobs way too often, for whatever reason
Youth workers losing their jobs because of financial problems in churches, budget cuts or political decisions to cut funding
Youth workers fighting with their (senior) pastor in whatever way
Youth workers working alone, without real support from a church and without a network, coach, or mentor
And most importantly: I see youth still leaving the church (and leaving God) in numbers that break my heart.
The future of youth ministry has to be about how we can turn that tide, how we can change that trend. We are doing something wrong if all our efforts do not result in less young people leaving the church.
Let me quote Mark Oestreicher (‘Marko’) here, who wrote about this very feeling in his book Youth Ministry 3.0:
“The way we’re doing things is already not working. We are failing at our calling. And deep down, most of us know it. (…) While there is wonderful stuff happening in youth ministry (…), our impact, the transformation of kids’ lives, seems less than we’d hoped for.(…) Our hearts are right for the most part, but I believe there are flaws in many of our assumptions and methods.”
So the questions that we need to answer are these:
What are we (still) doing wrong in youth ministry that’s causing youth to leave the church?
What are we doing right in youth ministry and how can we reinforce this?
I think that the answer to those questions will determine the future of youth ministry. If we can answer these questions, it will be the big break through that everyone has been waiting for.
Tomorrow we’ll look at some changes that we need to make in youth ministry.