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 it hardens hearts to such a degree 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 pragmatically program 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?