Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Great Questions About Youth Ministry

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.


Blogger Phil Irish said...

I really like the questions, and the issues being raised. They are very relevant to what I've been thinking about this winter/spring.

I've been leading a small youth group for a couple of years. We've had moments of numerical growth and big fun. Mostly, we stay in the 10-20 range of participants, and combine deep stuff with our fun. The deep stuff in the drivers' seat, mostly.

This year, we've been trying some more "project" type scheduling. Trying to live our mission, with the youth as active ministers of God's goodness. Right now, we are working on a major visual presentation for Easter morning: multimedia, acting, symbolic actions... It's been great, and means that we've been thinking about easter for weeks already. While it is very enriching for those who have bought in, there is a drawback: it is hard to invite new people, or to draw in people from the fringes, for something so intensive. A couple of weeks ago, attendance was really low even among the keeners, and I had that moment of dread -- of their disengagement. (Not to fear -- a little phoning around, and many have engaged the project with renewed passion.)

We've been looking at planning a VBS for the church, which is a real need because no one else in our town is doing one -- but I wonder about the health of our group with that. Will that be too much? I want to reach out to their giftedness, to call to align their energy with what God is doing... but it's a tough call. I also want to draw in the youth who are aren't yet asking the big faith questions.

11:36 p.m., March 29, 2006  

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