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Posts Tagged ‘youth ministry’

*at least not THAT kind of youth group.

Here is a challenging post on not segregating youth into youth ministry silos.  Its catchy title: Blowing Up the Youth Group Model. 

I recognize that people in in different age groups and generations do need to spend time with their peers.  However, I’ve long thought that the typical youth group ministry aimed at “hooking” youth interest with entertaining, exciting, and often expensive programs led by a high-energy professional actually vaccinates youth against full participation in the church.  Too often graduation from high school and from the youth group has also led to “graduation” from church.

While it might not feel like a blessing, it is indeed a blessing not to be able to have such a program.  The small number of children who spend significant time being nurtured and mentored by mature Christian adults in a small faith community grow in discipleship, and they often end up being leaders themselves.  When they move away to pursue education and careers, they can end up being the most mature leaders in a larger church because they grew up being active in the church’s ministry and not just consumers of the church’s ministry.

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'2011adults2 30 (5)' photo (c) 2011, Tom Williams - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/I have long believed that strong connections with mature Christian adults in addition to their parents helps young people grow up to be committed disciples of Jesus Christ.  They need to be totally integrated into the full life and ministry in the church, alongside adults.  In a new article in The Christian Century, online and in print, called “Sticky Faith: What Keeps Kids Connected to Church,” youth minister Jen Bradbury looks at this topic.  Here are some excerpts:

Youth ministry needs to be Christ-centered rather than entertainment-oriented:

“What every teen knows, however, is that the church is not cool. The good news is that the church does not have to be cool to be relevant. What the church has is Jesus, and he is enough. He is what differentiates the church from every other organization. He’s why the church matters. If the church matters because Jesus matters, then what youth ministries need more of are not entertaining activities but conversations about Jesus.”

Sustained contact with adults of all ages is important:

“Rather than aiming to have one adult leader for every five students, it’s better to aim for connecting every teen with five adults who are willing to invest in the teen in some way, even if rather small. According to LifeWay Research, “teens who had five or more adults from the church invest in them during the ages of 15 to 18 were less likely to leave the church after high school.”

Certainly, one way of connecting teens with adults is to utilize adults in our youth ministries as leaders. Such adult leadership teams are at their best when they, too, are intergenerational. This means that when we recruit adults to serve in our ministries, we need to look not just for the stereotypical youth worker—the outgoing, funny young adult in his or her twenties or thirties. Instead, we must also look for parents, empty nesters and senior citizens who are willing to spend time with teens, asking them questions and then listening to their responses and encouraging them.”

You certainly don’t have to be a big church for this to happen.

For further thought, see this article from the Christian Century archives:  Is Youth Ministry Killing the Church?”

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Want to hear a word of hope for the New Year?  Check out this hope-filled article from the December 2011 issue of Presbyterians Today about ministry with young adults.  It’s titled “If This Is Church, Bring It On.”

Author Mark Ray notes, “In many ways, young adults are looking for the same things as previous generations, including Spirit-filled worship, authentic community and meaningful service.”

No, it is not crucial to have a guitar and drums in your worship service.  What is needed is to be genuine and authentic and to do what you do well.   He quotes Roger Dermody, Executive Director for Mission of the PC(USA) General Assembly Mission Council: “Whether worship is traditional or contemporary, the goal is to avoid having it become “monotone or rote,” he says. “We want to infuse our rich traditions and forms of worship with meaning to touch the hearts and minds of the younger generation.”

Younger generations are looking for genuine, deep relationships, including relationships that cross generational lines.  In small congregations, this often comes naturally.  The article speaks of congregations doing this intentionally.  Call it the “Cheers factor.”  They want to be where “everybody knows your name.”

As for service, Ray advises finding out what ministries young people are passionate about and accompanying them in service.  What’s more, young people are looking for encouraging mentors.  Again, this is intergenerational.

Warm, Spirit-filled worship.  Deep caring relationships across generations.  Service that meets critical needs.  Small churches can do all this.  Mine does, and I’m so grateful.

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