While checking out Marko's sight I got pointed to another blog that had a series of questions about youth ministry. Check them out at Marko's Blog
or the original at tall skinny kiwi
. While not quite as taken with the questions as Marko, they do seem like reasonable questions. Maybe because I work in the mainline church but have a foot in the evangelical camp, it seems unfathomable to have the kind of numerical growth that either of these guys have seen in youth ministries. Anyways, here are some thoughts.
Each of us goes through a series of transitions in our life. Clearly one of the biggest is from adolescence to adulthood but the mid-life crisis is also big. When a kid accepts Jesus and develops a faith, including a hermeneutic and an implicit theology, at 16 they are doing so before they have gone through the major crisis of their life. When they get to the shift from adolescence to adulthood, they must find love, work and a philosophy of life. If the faith that they had before was not flexible then it will shatter on the pragmatics of the crisis. The job therefore of the youth worker is not discipleship in the sense that we are making a mature Christian (we never really make a mature Christian, at least with my understanding of sanctification we don't) but rather we are giving the youth the tools that they will need to reshape their faith as they go through the crisis of adolescence/adulthood. Maturity in this case is not knowing the definite answers but rather the questions that they will need to ask in order to continue to love and serve God throughout their life.
I think back to my own life and my own faith journey. I found God through Jesus in a new and exciting way when I was 16. My faith, however, went through some major changes near the end of my time in university. If the youth ministry that I found Jesus had not opened me to the major questions I was going to ask and prepared me with the tools I needed to find the answer, then I'm sure I wouldn't be the Christian I am today. Some of those tools - a community of believers: it isn't so much what I believed but who I believed it with, it was worth struggling through to find an answer because I loved my community enough to want to stick around - a faithful reading of Scripture: being able to move past proof texting to capture the story of God in motion - the expectation of ministry: as a teen I was expected to do ministry, not just go on mission trips but organize them. Maybe there were more, I'll reflect on it more later.