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Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Death of Youth Ministry

From Seth Barnes, over at Adventures in Missions:

"1. Program vs. relationship tension. Youth ministers can't win. Most are wired and motivated to do relationship. Yet to satisfy their various constituencies, they have to spend a majority of their time feeding the beast that is their program. Many, having studied scripture, understand Jesus' model of discipling, but are handcuffed to a job description with a deep conflict of interest at its heart.

2. Many are too young. They're still in their twenties and haven't answered many of the basic questions that students are asking themselves. Yet they get thrown to the lions with little backup...It's unfair to ask youth ministers to take responsibility that properly belongs to parents. They can be a friend and even a teacher, but few can be the father figure that students need.
3. Misplaced accountability. Parents, perhaps feeling ill-equipped to fulfill the job of discipling that God has given them, shovel pass the job onto someone who has signed a W-2 and can be dismissed on a whim.
4. Parental abdication. The very role of a youth minister enables parents in their dysfunction. Rather than being forced to see and wrestle with the bankruptcy of their own discipleship efforts, their responsibility gets lost in a broken system.
5. Stuck in the culture. Even the best-equipped youth ministers are stuck on a playing field tilted against them. American culture is a spiritual meat grinder set up to undermine a young person's spiritual foundation. It's cynical and media-driven and it creates an environment that is to the life of faith youth ministers are charged with creating. What's more, because of misplaced priorities, youth ministers have to fight for the time they need to detox the students in their charge."

Follow the link for the rest of the article.


Bill Holley said...

I can hear Lynn asking if the glass is half empty or half full. This author sounds like a "glass is totally empty, fallen on the floor, and broken into a million pieces" type of guy.

1. An awful lot of relationship takes places in those evil programs. From a trip to CIY or Kansas or Mexico to the weekly youth group meetings it sure sounds like a lot of relationship is taking place.

2. Good thing Jesus lived well into his thirties (33 by fair estimate). Yes, I know he didn't begin his public ministry until 30, but the idea that young disqualifies a person of mentoring another is ludicrous.

3,4. Yep, some parents are slackers. So, lets just abandon their kids right along with them.

5. Ah, this one actually makes a little sense. The world has a powerful impact on young lifes, and old. Makes it all the more important that we have men and women who can step forward like the apostle Paul and say "imitate me as I imitate Christ."

I am extremely optimistic about youth ministry, and Eastview's youth ministry in particular. Our youth minister, that would be you John, has done and is doing a great job of connecting young people with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just look at this past Wednesday night as testimony to the hunger people, young and old, have for the truth of God. It is awesome!

Keep up the good work. Oh, and read something positive and hopeful this week!

John Mulholland said...

Bill, Bill, Bill...

1- notice that Seth referred to this dichotomy (I should get points for that) between programming and relationship as "tension". And, I didn't see the word "evil" in there! When Jesus fed the 5,000, he had them sit in groups so they could easier be fed (that's programming) but the feeding was the relational aspect, it was so they could come to discover Jesus as the meeter of their genuine need. And all from five loaves and a few fish!

2-Maybe he was a little bold in this, but even in hiring me someone on the committee shared that they saw value in my "life experience". I can only imagine what it would have been like going through ministry here as a 22 year old kid!

3-I read about this in the book "Secondhand Jesus" by Glenn Packiam. It's not just youth ministry, but ministry in general. Supposedly, you and I are the "experts" (you of course more than me! I'm your associate!), which explains why you or I pray at gatherings and a whole host of other things that we've joked about.

4-I didn't see where he said that we should abandon the same kids. I believe his comments were meant to teach parents of their own need for discipleship and then their role as discipler.

5-1 (or 3) hours per week is simply not enough to counter everything else that takes place in the lives of our kids.

Believe it or not, I thought this was "positive and hopeful"!!