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 second bit, from chapter 1:
Our Efforts Aren’t Meeting Our Expectations
I think, for most of us who have been doing youth ministry for a while (and some who haven’t been doing youth ministry for a while), there’s a sense of [this]: the reality that is playing out is somewhat different than what we imagined, hoped or expected. While there’s wonderful stuff happening in youth ministry all over the place – in pretty much every youth ministry – our impact, the transformation of kids’ lives, seems to be less than we’d hoped. Study after study is bringing this harsh reality into focus. Kids are dropping out of church after youth group at staggering rates (as high as 80% in one reputable survey). And those who are IN our youth groups seem to be – according to researchers – subscribing to a faith that is neutered and unsustainable.
To be fair, we youth workers are doing what we’ve always done – trying to love teenagers to the best of our ability, and help them to experience the love of God. Problem is: how we DO this needs to evolve from time to time, as teenagers and youth culture and our culture in general mutate and morph and evolve.
Our hearts are right (for the most part), but – I believe – many of our assumptions and methods are a disconnect.
It’s like this: if you’re in a poor, rural country, and see a horse-drawn wagon, you think nothing of it. It fits. But if you’re driving through Amish country and see a horse-drawn buggy driving down a nice, paved road, holding up traffic, it seems like something doesn’t fit.
Some time ago, a consultant who was working with our leadership team at Youth Specialties, introduced us to a timeline exercise. He placed three pieces of paper on the ground, creating a physical timeline. One said “past”, one said “present”, and one said “future”. Each of us took turns, standing on the pieces of paper, moving between them, thinking about our lives and where we’re headed.
Recently, I was working with the board of a non-profit organization that was struggling with their identity. I used this timeline exercise, but had board members step into past, present, and future as an embodiment of the organization. This is where the thinking came from for this book.
I’d like to take a pass at that in this book: looking back, looking at our present, and attempting to describe a preferred future. I’m not looking into a crystal ball – and this isn’t an exercise in predicting the future. Instead, I’m hoping to describe what I’m seeing and experiencing and feeling about where we need to go, in order to continue being true to our calling.
Part of my contention is that so many of us are feeling, and have been feeling for some time, that we’re on the cusp of change in youth ministry; that, while there are wonderful things happening in the world of youth ministry today, there are also flaws in our assumptions. Some of these flaws exist because we wrongly adopted cultural priorities into our youth ministry thinking. More often, our flaws exist because our thinking was correct, for its time; but the world of teenagers has changed, and we’ve been slow in our response.