Tag Archives: the riddle group

the future of youth ministry, episode 2

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.

my thoughts:
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.

my thoughts:
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.

inside the mind of youth pastors

Inside the Mind of Youth Pastors: A Church Leaders Guide to Staffing and Leading Youth Pastors, by Mark Riddle

ok — i need to start with a few disclaimers:

1. mark riddle is a friend of mine who i care about quite a bit.

2. this book was published by ys. i don’t write too many blog book reviews of ys books, because i try to keep this blog from being too overly marketing-y. i DO publish them from time to time, though, and felt this one was worth it, since i actually read the entire book!

3. this book releases in january! (sorry, you’ll have to wait!)

i’d known this book was in development for a couple years (since i know mark, and since i know our publishing schedule), and i’ve been looking forward to it. i’m not sure how well it will sell, since it’s a book — primarily — for church leaders (senior pastors and such) who oversee youth pastors, or are looking to hire one; but, i think it’s one of those books that just had to be written. and, this is clear: this is a book that will be immensely helpful to those who read it. i expect we’ll be hearing thanks from senior pastors and churches who find this book helps them break the cycle of bad assumptions, bad hiring processes, and bad hires. i think this book will help senior pastors and youth pastors get along better. and i think it will help youth pastors make better choices in “accepting a call” to a church.

mark writes clearly, in short chapters. the book can be read straight through, or in a non-linear fashion. depending on who’s doing the reading, you might want to choose our own adventure through these ideas. there’s good humor, and lots of stories, and a wad of helpful tools, ideas, suggested practices and processes.

so, here’s my suggestion: pastors who oversee youth workers really need to read this book. and youth pastor should pick up a couple copies of this book (honestly, i’m not just trying to sell it — i really do believe this) and ask your supervisor if they’d be willing to read it concurrently with you, and meet to talk through the ideas. it could do wonders for opening lines of communication on crucial issues about effective youth ministry, as it pertains to the role of a youth pastor.

thanks, mark, for working so hard to give us such a helpful resource.

here’s the website for mark’s consulting organization, the riddle group.

and here’s mark’s blog (which i have in my bloglines, and read daily).