i led a late night discussion at the national youth workers convention this past fall on “the future of youth ministry”. in preparation for that discussion, i emailed a few dozen friends with better youth ministry minds than my own, and asked them to complete the sentence, “the future of youth ministry….” about 15 of them responded (often with more than a sentence!). i’m going to post them here as a series, sometimes with a bit of commentary from myself, and sometimes merely as a reflection-prod. would love to hear your responses.
Seth Barnes (seth is the founder and executive director of adventures in missions. a brilliant thinker and entrepreneur with a heart for the broken of the world, seth is passionate about discipleship. he blogs here; but you shouldn’t read his blog unless you want to be challenged out of any speck of complacency you might hold onto.)
20 years from now, youth ministry in the US will look like youth ministry in Europe.
A few youth ministers will rediscover Jesus’ model of youth ministry and actually try it out (with 20-somethings).
The gap year experience will become an increasingly powerful tool in the youth minister’s toolbox.
it’s difficult to know exactly what seth perceives youth ministry in europe to look like (maybe he’ll comment here and fill us in on his thinking); but i’m guessing that he’s referring more to youth ministry in a truly post-christian culture than he’s referring to any particular approaches to youth ministry found in europe. if that interpretation is correct, i fully agree with seth. our epoch of well-resourced churches is on the wane, and an assumed christian perspective is already gone in much of the u.s. (less so in the south, of course).
i’m very intrigued by seth’s 2nd sentence, and his inference that great youth ministry might look like a long series of praxis experiences born out in the context of small community (the 12 with jesus). of course, this implies a great deal of sacrifice on the part of both the youth worker and the disciples; and i’m skeptical (sorry) that many will be willing to go there.
as to the gap year experience (a common practice in the UK and other parts of europe where young adults take a year — often before or after college — to give themselves to a serving opportunity that often becomes a significant worldview shaper): i’m a huge fan. i wish we had more of this as a norm in the u.s.
Mark Riddle (mark is a very smart pot-stirrer who clearly has the ability to practice systemic thinking and knock people off balance into a perspective-altering space of disequilibration. mark leads ‘the riddle group‘, one of the premier youth ministry consultant organizations. and he blogs — occasionally — here.)
The greatest barriers to God’s dreams for the future of youth ministry are sitting in this room right now.
like i said, mark is a pot-stirrer. my understanding of mark’s comment is that we have a natural tendency to limit what could be — particularly in the area of significant change — by our perspectives, biases and experiences. in a sense, we always ‘limit’ possible change; whereas an outsider, or someone thinking from a completely ‘other’ paradigm, can bring cross-current ideas and thinking that leap change forward, rather than tweaking and tinkering.
mark actually sat in on my late night discussion at the nashville convention, and had much more to say about this (that helped all of us in the room). i’m hoping he’ll comment here and help us all.