a very mixed review of ym3.0

this one from brian lenney. i wasn’t sure i was going to post this one, because it’s SO mixed (and a bit cocky) — but, hey, let’s just go with full disclosure and transparency!:

I just got done reading, “Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto of Where We’ve Been, Where We Are & Where We Need to Go” by Mark Oestreicher. The first thing I noticed was that the writing is in a huge font and there is a lot of filler on the sides from various people involved in youth ministry so the book can be read in like 2 hours, easy. Just an observation. [ysmarko comment: the font is normal sized – nothing big about it. there are, of course, lots of sidebars, as we felt the dialogue with blog commenters added to the point of the book.] Also it is refreshing to read a book that you already by and large agree with (which I do for the most part).

The main premise of his book is this: “The reality [of the effectiveness of youth ministry] that’s playing out is somewhat different than what we imagined, hoped, or expected.” (pg. 24). He is basically stating in his book: youth ministry as we know it or have known it is generally not “working”. Agreed. Even as a rookie I can see this and have seen this since I’ve been involved in youth ministry for the past 6 years.

The Breakdown:

For starters, Oestreicher cites the all too often over cited and known facts about adolescence and adolescent development, etc. that have already been beat to death by Chap Clark, et al. But it is still good to hear as a refresher. Moving on to frame his premise, Oestreicher gives a breakdown of the history of youth ministry:

YM 1.0: Proclamation Driven:
This is basically evangelism. Kids need to hear and receive the gospel message. This is what drove youth ministry from the early 1900’s until about the 1970’s. It was/is about identity. Basically adolescents are trying to figure out who they are; their identity. And he cites “evangelism” and “correction” as key marks of YM 1.0. Think Billy Graham, think preaching, think the message going out to kids, This is YM 1.0.

YM 2.0: Program Driven:
This is a reaction to YM 1.0. He defines this as “if we can build the right program with the coolest youth room and hip adult leaders and lots of great stuff to attract kids, then we’ll be successful.” (pg 59). Basically think structure, cool events, formal and rigid program nights with a band, a message, and fun games, etc; a program. How many kids are coming is more important than the actual kids themselves. Participation = success. There is also a huge emphasis on discipleship and “creating a positive peer group.” This is YM 2.0 and he identifies this with the quest for autonomy in the life of adolescents.

YM 3.0: Not Driven, but Present:
He argues that we need to move from 2.0 into 3.0 but this will look different for each youth ministry. This is defined not by programs or events, but by being with the kids and doing life with them. It means communion (like community but deeper) and missional living. This happens in small groups of kids, not large programs where most kids don’t even know each other. The focus is “to be present with the teenagers God has placed in our midst.” (pg. 72). Spurgeon always said that when you focus on the empty seat you do a disservice to the filled seat next to it (paraphrase). God brings us kids to minister to. Lets minister to them and be in communion with them. Lets be missionaries to them not their best buddy or the “cool youth pastor.” The focus of 3.0 is affinity. Teenagers are trying to find out where they belong. We need to facilitate that in a small, organic, communal, missional group where they can feel loved, welcomed and yet have purpose and be on a mission from Jesus where they are actually making a difference.

Oestreicher even advocates doing less, and being smaller, simpler. He writes, “Let me say it plainly: Large is part of the value system of Youth Ministry 2.0; small is a cornerstone to Youth Ministry 3.0. Communion necessitates small. Contextualization begs for small. Discernment requires small. Mission is lived out in small…not forced community, programming, and utility.” (pg. 99). I went to a youth group sometimes in high school before I was saved that had 800 high schoolers and 400 junior highers! It was a purely social endeavor. It was nuts. I think that if the youth pastor doesn’t know the name of every kid in the room, the group is too big.

With all of this said, I liked most of what he wrote in this book. I would have loved to see a lot more theology in it and bible citations (there are about 10 total ?) and I do think Oestreicher puts too much of an emphasis on “what we do” instead of letting God “do”. Another breakdown of the book is that he somewhat advocates an “either/or” approach to youth ministry (regarding 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0) instead of a “both/and” approach. While moving into 3.0 there are elements of 1.0 (evangelism and correction, see Colossians 1:28) and 2.0 (discipleship, see…the bible) that must and should be present in any ministry. I hope that the move to 3.0 doesn’t leave content (gospel, doctrine, etc.) in its wake.

Even with those objections stated, by and large I loved the book. I like where he is going with it and what he envisions. This year (before I read the book) I canceled high school “youth group” and now we meet at a home and eat, study the bible and hang out. It is more discussion based and more natural. More organic and zero program feel to it. I’ve always hated “programs.” Programs are fake and forced. Now we just have two high school bible studies during the week, (one is an inductive study through 1 John, and one is a discussion based group where we’re going through “Where Faith and Culture Meet” by Andy Crouch.). We still have junior high youth group because I think they need more concrete boundaries, and Sunday school is a hybrid of discussion and teaching for both.

So we have different groups to meet the desires of different kids. I like being present and not driven. I am glad Oestreicher wrote this book. Hopefully we can all eventually move into being the church, where success is measured by being faithful to God’s call, instead of being activity directors where success is measure by “how many kids are in your group.”

4 thoughts on “a very mixed review of ym3.0”

  1. I was thinking about this. What is cocky about it? Why should it NOT be “mixed?” Do you only like reviews that are in 100% agreement with you? Now THAT is cocky…

  2. hey brian — naw, i LOVE the mixed reviews (which is why i’ve posted so many of them!). as for cockiness, i thought sentences like this one:
    “…the all too often over cited and known facts about adolescence and adolescent development, etc. that have already been beat to death by Chap Clark, et al.”
    had a cocky vibe to it. forgive me if i was wrong.

    i still love that you read the book and posted a review!

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