youth ministry 3.0 is the working title of a book i’ve mostly written, which is expected to release this fall. it’s an attempt to name where and how we’re missing the mark in youth ministry, and what needs to change in order to more truly live into our calling as youth workers.
we’ve decided to open up the book a bit and solicit youth worker contributions as sidebar comments, and i’m going to use my blog for this purpose. until late april, i’ll be posting a series of snapshots from the rough draft of the manuscript. i invite lots of comments — questions, disagreements, ideas, very short stories or examples, reflections — which will be considered as additions to the book.
by posting a comment, you are giving permission for your comment, with your screen name, to be added to the print book.
so, here’s the first one:
Jenna, an 8th grade girl, sat on a stool in front of 30 of her youth group peers. The room was rustic – wood mixed with dust – at a camp during a winter retreat. Everyone was silent, watching Jenna. She squirmed, trying to remember the answer. But she took too long.
I pushed the button, connected with wires to the contraption affixed to the bottom of the stool, which was connected to a wire screen wrapped over the top. The electrical charged zapped her, sending what felt like a million needles into her hind end. She screamed and lunged from the stool, much to the delight of the group, who broke into cheers.
Jenna couldn’t remember the Bible verse fast enough. So I shocked her on “the hot seat”.
Seriously. The hot seat was the laugh-riot, everyone-begged-for-it, centerpiece of our winter retreat each year.
If I had a hot seat in my youth ministry today, I would likely get sued. Or, at the very least, incur the significant wrath of some parents and lose my job. But things were different in the early 80s. Right?
It’s quite easy for me to look back at the hot seat and think, “Wow, how did we ever think that was ok?” It’s a little embarrassing, to say the least, especially that I used it with scripture memory!
But it raises a few questions to ponder:
Was the hot seat ever OK?
Has it gone by the wayside only because our culture has become so litigious?
If it was OK, why isn’t it OK now?
If it wasn’t OK, why didn’t we see that then?
These questions aren’t as simple as they might seem. If hot seats were semi-common in youth ministry in the 70s and into the mid-80s, and the students all thought it was fun, and no parents complained, and books suggested using them, was it wrong? In other words, if the common understanding among youth workers and encouragement of the youth ministry collective was, “hot seats are good,” does that make them good?
Or, maybe you’re thinking, “No, hot seats were morally wrong. Youth workers of that era just didn’t see it.” Why didn’t we see it? Why wasn’t there a backlash (from anyone)?
These are the kind of questions I’d like to take a stab at in this little book. Instead of looking at a silly and micro issue, like hot seats, I’d like to focus on the broader, macro questions surrounding our assumptions about youth ministry today.
We’re at a crossroads, I believe, in youth work. In order to be effective – in order to be true to our calling – we need to change. We need to turn at this crossroad. But I’m afraid we’re passing right through the crossroad, assuming the way we’ve always done things will continue to work.
Problem is: the way we’re doing things is already not working. We are failing at our calling. And deep down, most of us know it. This is why we need an epochal shift in our assumptions, approaches, models and methods.
It’s time for youth ministry 3.0.