Saturday, June 07, 2008

What does effective youth ministry look like?

The Internet Monk, Michael Spencer, lists some aspects of what a post-evangelical youth ministry looks like. Not surprisingly, it probably looks a lot like what youth ministry looked like before we invented it.

1. It would be very open to the “Family centered” model that puts youth ministry firmly in the ministry of parents, and would utilize “youth ministers” only as a supplement and facilitation of that model.

2. It would never separate young people from the multi-generational nature of the church, but would instill in them an appreciation for the Christian tradition, and the compromises and gifts of the multi-generational model.

3. Age segregated Bible study would most likely be de-emphasized, if not eliminated as much as possible.

Read on for other points.

The last point is key:

9. This does not mean the elimination of “youth ministry,” but it does mean that any specific ministry will find its definition and direction from the overall character of the community to which it belongs. Whatever activities, actions or processes occur, they will be evaluated by the whole community and not by separate standards derived from “youth ministry” as a self-defining parachurch movement.

I think this last point is key to Lutherans retaining their youth. We left our former evangelical mega-church when our kids were in 5th and 7th grade. I was alarmed at the lack of depth of Christian education and the generational separation of the very large and very well-known youth ministry. We left for a much smaller church that espouses many of the aspects mentioned by Michael Spencer. Ironically, though, people occasionally suggest that our church should take a cue from our former mega-church youth ministry program. I have struggled to put into words why I consider this the wrong approach to the strengthening of our youth. These points will help me do that.


Tim Kuehn said...

Congregations seperate the young people from the rest of the congregation, and then wonder why they don't stick around when they get older?

If you look around your congregation after church on Sunday, and how many "old" people do you see interacting with younger folks they're not related to?

TKls2myhrt said...

Yep! Good point! That is a good measure. At our church, I see the youth interacting with the congregation afterwards at our church quite a bit, but I never realized that it could be because the youth program - both school and non-school- is well-integrated into the entire congregation. Also, our K-8 school has a large number of retired volunteers who are church members. Ultimately, I think that we see this interaction because the family unit is kept in tact. The kids visit with each other between Bible Study and worship and afterwards, but they aren't far from their families.

ghp said...

Yes, Point #2 is quite possibly the downfall of the megachurch model of youth ministry. The ghetto-izing of our youth, beginning with the Sunday School program, and working on up throughout the entire congregation, is a horrible byproduct of the overemphasis on the individual and the "relevant" entertaining of that individual. Rather than treating the congregation as a model of the Body of Christ that it is, we seem to want to attack it & break it down. Ain't we smart!