youth ministry 3.0, part 11

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 eleventh bit, from chapter 5:

With these three tectonic plate movements in youth culture, it’s kinda obvious why the prioritization of adolescent tasks would once again reshuffle, isn’t it?

With youth culture’s identity once again at risk, due to the dominance and popularization of all things youth, youth culture began grasping for an identity redefinition. And while the move underground was as much about autonomy as anything else, youth culture once again found itself anchorless and ill defined. Suddenly affinity became the long-leg of the three-legged stool. Affinity has become the pathway, in a sense, to identity formation and autonomy.

Finding somewhere to belong has always been important, of course. But in the old scenario, at a macro level, kids either did or didn’t belong (of course, many found a way to belong to something or some group outside of the macro level). But in a splintered youth culture, it is both easier to find belonging (affinity) and more desperate.

Burning Man is a large festival of sorts that takes place in a remote part of the Nevada [verify] desert every summer. It is Mecca to many west coast teenagers, collegiates and 20-somethings. Not a traditional festival with a program and sponsors and marketing, Burning Man is a DIY festival, part earth-worship, part performance art, part celebration of naturalism, and all party. Big party. No rules, no cops, no parents party.

Check out this framing quote from their the official Burning Man website:

“You belong here and you participate. You’re not the weirdest kid in the classroom – there’s always somebody there who’s thought up something you never even considered. You’re there to breathe art. Imagine an ice sculpture emitting glacial music – in the desert. Imagine the Man, greeting you, neon and benevolence, watching over the community. You’re here to build a community that needs you and relies on you.”

A bit trippy and psychedelic, to be sure. But this “marketing copy” is a siren song proclaiming the opportunity for affinity. “Come, be one of us,” could be the most powerful thing a teenager in today’s youth culture wants to hear.

7 thoughts on “youth ministry 3.0, part 11”

  1. “Affinity has become the pathway, in a sense, to identity formation and autonomy.”

    I absolutely agree with this statement. Teenagers want desperately to feel they are accepted and loved by adults and their peers. What’s interesting is that these same teenagers still enjoy being challenged and grown in their lives. It’s just this process seems to start with affinity, with belonging.

  2. The need to belong to a group, any group, is one of the main motivators for behavior and attitude in almost all adolescents. Mix that with the lengthened timeframe of adolescence (ala duffy’s viewpoints) and the extreme lack of familial and community identity among this age group, and you have the fight club gene

  3. sorry my last post got cut off, here’s the rest

    fight club generation. A generation that will latch on to anything that gives meaning to their lives through their identity. Did you ever see the movie “the warriors” or “Gangs of New York?” That is what the youth culture of today is like. You must join a group, or you have no identity.

    The church is unfortunately on the back end of accepting students as quickly and without judgement as the groups these students join in youth culture. (evidence on the burning man website) That is why Jesus’ incarnational ministry was so cool; he brought all these different people from different groups and helped them forge a new identity in him. They were still fishermen, or pharisees, or zealots but found meaning and identity in Christ. Their main mission changed and they became “true” fishermen or pharisees and zealots.

    Marko, thanks for writing this book. I really enjoyed last years youth leader conference and I want you to know that i really appreciate the services that you and YS provide to youth leaders. If you get a chance, an excellent book that fills in some blanks for me with culture is “understanding the hidden power of electronic media” by shane hipps. It helps explain the tribal nature of today’s culture.

    Thanks for all you do.

  4. marko

    yeah, i got the book at the convention last year, but wasn’t sure how closely you work with all the materials YS produces. I only remembered zondervan on the book but i think you guys work with them too. Anyhoo, its a good book and seeing as how you guys published it, you should be able to get a copy no problem.

  5. Since you’ve already somehow managed to bring in Burning Man and psychedelics, it must be safe to reference some very relevant words spoken by ancient shamans to disenfranchised villagers…

    When did you stop singing?
    When did you stop dancing?
    When did you stop finding comfort in the silence?
    When did you stop being enchanted by the stories of the storytellers?

    As the Church, are we embracing the youthful spirit of adolescence? Or are we inadvertently squashing it out? We very possibly are to blame for silencing the songs of our youth, breaking the toes of our teenage “dancers,” telling them to “get busy” when they finally quiet down, and not making time to pass on our stories to our young people.

  6. BTW — giving credit where credit is due…Anthropologist Angeles Arrien writes about the ancient Shamans and these questions.

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