“weve got a great youth group thats been going for 40 years now”
“our group does amazing things”
“we take our group to _________ every year”
There is some pride in the reality, activity and even more the longevity of youth ministry, how long the group or activity has lasted, its also notable is the endorsement within the profession of the years service to it, ie X youth minister has been involved in youth ministry for 25 yrs, that kind of thing, usually gets them a platform.
Some kind of recognition is warranted for the groups that last, after all there must have been struggles and challenges to keep up with, politics, funding, attendance, leadership, volunteers, yes definitely, tip my hat off if youve sustained in youth ministry, your group in your church is keeping going. During that time young people have come and gone, parents have come and gone, leaders have come and gone, theres been battles with the leadership all that kind of thing, and yet through all the group in the church has been maintained. Maybe its time to roll out the year book for the 50th time, hold the reunion, mention it in the papers.
However – is that what we should be measuring here? or even is this the right question?
What question would Jesus ask, that we have to answer for?
have a look at Luke 18:8.
And so, the question is not- what is the longevity of your journey in youth ministry – or how long has the youth ministry served you, even how long has that youth group been going. the question is “where is the faith of the young people -(possibly now adults) who you ministered to? – the where are they now? with God question.
So, for youth groups, for ministry organisations who do youth ministry, how might you encourage future embedded faith in the young people now? what might that look like? Is youth ministry guilty of presenting present faith that hooks on to relevance today, as it might be that that ‘relevent’ faith will be irrelevent tomorrow when a different challenge arrives, like university, moving home, pregnancy, divorce. If there is limited ‘adult culture’ in the church to fall back on, just student culture in the student churches, to hang on like a reassuring warm blanket like ‘christian youth culture’ might provide for a short while. But after then…?
Of course, its far easier to celebrate group existence longevity and personal longevity in the ministry, than it is celebrate faith stories and continuing commitment to faith of all its participants. After all, our part is only minimal, the rest is up to God isnt it? though many of who left over the years for one reason or another, blessed we hope by the ‘seed’ that we planted, the stories we told, the investment we made, sacrificially, in their precious young lives.
Is a great youth ministry one that continues to exist, or one that is able to help young people navigate faith in the wider community of the church for the sake of its own existence? To help them explore faith in the community of the family, in the traditions, in the silence, and the liturgies ? A youth ministry that sees the bigger picture for the sake of young people in the church might challenge present practices in order that young people have a different possibility of participating in and with the faith community in the future.
You might have shown dedication and faith to your group, your church, and great that that is, how have you enabled young people to have that same persevering, exploring, being challenged faith?
I dont genuinely think that this is one of those Both/and questions. One does not determine the other. Surely we want faithful young people in the long continuing life of the christian faith community.