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.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Believing in Jesus

While researching a topic, I came across this excellent response to a question on how we are to come to faith in Jesus on the WELS Living Bold website. The site is designed with youth in mind, but the resources are ageless.

Question: I know that I can't believe in Jesus without the Holy Spirit. But after the Holy Spirit comes, do I (or someone else) make the choice to belive in Jesus? I mean, it's my choice to get baptized or confirmed, right?


You ask a very important question. Many Christian churches in our world today use their human logic to answer it by saying each individual person has some goodness or power within themselves to accept Jesus as their personal Savior. The technical term for this is "decision theology." They believe that Jesus has done everything to save them for eternity, but I have the choice to decide whether I want to accept or reject him as my Savior. That makes sense logically to my human reason, but that isn't how God says a person comes to believe in Jesus.

God tells us in Scripture that every human being is conceived and born spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3), blind to the truth of God's Word (1 Corinthians 2:14), and enemies of God having no power in ourselves to change our unbelieving condition (Romans 8:7). By nature we are conceived and born as rejectors of God, but by nature we have no power to decide one day we want to believe in Jesus as our Savior. Salvation and faith (the ability to believe in Jesus and say you believe in Jesus) is completely the work of God the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3) working through the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and the Sacrament of Baptism (1 Peter 3:21, Titus 3:4-7, Galatians 3:26-27, John 3:5). Salvation and the ability to believe (faith) that Jesus has saved me for eternity are both gifts that God the Holy Spirit gives to us(Eph. 2:4-9).

Read on...