Future of Youth Ministry

The current issue of Christianity Today features an article that is a compilation of thoughts from prominent evangelicals regarding “the next 50 years” for the church. Thanks to zus for the e-mail of the youth portion of the article (and to Marshall, who doesn’t know yet that I borrowed the issue from his inbox so I could read the rest).

There are some really good thoughts about youth ministry and where it should be headed. I really like the main point of the article, that much of what has happened in youth ministry hasn’t produced long term disciples. (I don’t want to put words in anyone else’s mouth, so read the article so you know what they actually said.) There’s a really good quote from Mark Ostereicher of Youth Specialties that talks about the disconnection between real faith and being present at youth activities. Just because a kid’s here all the time now, doesn’t ensure he’ll be involved in the church at all 5 years from now.

Another comment that really resonated with me is from Chap Clark of Fuller Theological Seminary (you may remember I recommended his book Hurt… or you may not, but it’s a great book). His comments indicated that “the greatest challenge is developing ‘a theology of intergenerational community’ that helps a whole church to feel responsible for its youth. Otherwise, he said, churches follow mainstream culture’s market-driven vision—and, like secular culture, abandon adolescents to raise themselves. ” That’s not ok. The world sees students as cheap labor, open wallets, and idle consumers and treats them accordingly. Youth ministry that panders to kids who just want to play, parents who just want a babysitter, and people who just want big crowds does the same thing. (Again, that’s my two cents, not Clark’s.)

I’m sure youth ministry will look much different in 50 years than it does now. I won’t pretend to know what exactly will change. But in short (I know, it’s too late for short), I hope youth ministry will become known for producing lifelong disciples of Jesus. The flash, the games, the hype… they can all disappear. What students cannot live without is learning to follow the lead of Jesus.
For a nice look at what editor’s have to do, check out the summary of Marko’s thoughts in first paragraph of the article, then read the expanded version of his own words on his own blog. CORRECTION: (just in case you don’t read the comments) the article’s paragraph is actually word for word from the interview. Marko’s blog has more of his thoughts from the interview.

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