This post is part of a series on the challenges of youth ministry. You can read the whole series here.
When my lawnmower wouldn’t start I was determined to fix it. I took it apart and learned that it was so clogged up with grass and dirt that there was no way it could “breathe.” I cleaned it up and put it back together and it ran well… for a while. I kept trying to fix an old, poor quality lawnmower. Now that same lawnmower sits on the side of my house, waiting to go to the junk yard. I have a brand new one now that is much more efficient.
Is modern day youth ministry a little like this lawnmower? Is it so clogged up that it has no room to “breathe?” I wonder if it’s not only time to dismantle youth ministry, but maybe reinvent it all together. To do this we must reinvent the youth minister’s role. It seems that we’ve tried simply by renaming the role to youth and family minister or faith formation director. But that’s not enough. I wonder:
- Have we neglected daily relational faith practices (regular maintenance) for a style of ministry that pushes so hard on getting people to participate in programs that we are running out of gas and getting bogged down?
- Have we abandoned the ministry of Christ to satisfy our own needs?
- Have we walked away from generations of faith development learned from the core Biblical story?
- Have we stepped away from caring conversation and relied on the ministry of “bells and whistles?”
- Has ministry with people in the first third of life become nothing more than a “product” to convince people they need?
- Have our “techniques” to “minister” to youth actually had a reverse effect?
- Have we fed young people spiritual candy rather than spiritual nutrients?
- How does the role of the youth minister need to be reinvented?
These are the questions spinning around in my brain. Are you sensing a bit of pessimism yet? Yes, it is most likely there. Yet most great revolutions begin with a bit of pessimism and loads of hope for a better way. I do believe there is a better way. I believe there is a better way to do and think about ministry with young people and their families and it is far from hopeless. The purpose of this blog series is to take a hard look at the current role of the youth minister (or fill in your title here).
So will you journey with me as I present a series of blog posts that push back on our youth ministry techniques and models and seek a better way? I know I’m not the first to do this, but I still see a lot of people doing the same thing and hoping for a different result. Isn’t it time to do something different? I’d love your ideas and interaction with this blog series. Share your joys and concerns about ministry with young people. My goal is to get us to a place where our ministries are deep and wide enough that young people move into adulthood with a maturing, deep, living faith. So let’s reinvent it and see where God leads us.
This series lays the groundwork for one of our action research projects, “Known: The Youth Ministry Change Project” that is open to experienced youth ministry leaders who truly want to dig in and create something together. Go here to find out more.