Youth Ministry : ‘it was the future once’

Youth Ministry: from the 1950’s was a movement of young people, that started in churches, student unions that created the youth fellowship movement, and paved the way for new forms of worship, guitars, the creation of alternative cultures and expressions in Music- from Cliff, to Larry Norman, to alternative festivals – Spring Harvest, then Soul survivor, and i was in it. I bought it. I went to all of these things, except Cliff.

Then theres the resources and ministries that inform it, inspire it and academia that has professionalised it. Did a youth led movement become a leader led- ministry led movement, and whats the cost of this?

It was a grassroots movement once – it was led by young people once, when young people were dissatisfied by the church – they created the alternative, they led the movement. That is until they became the leaders of the movement.

It was the future once.

Now young people are led through youth ministry – the groups, the festivals and the culture – do they go along to the thing because the thing is there, or because the thing is for them and therefore they must.

Its not their thing, its thing made to be relevent for them.

When there was nothing, and there were many young people – there was space for the ‘thing’

Now there is no space – the thing is already pre packaged, like it, be part of it, follow it, have it, be led to it, attend it, to busy in it, consume it, grow tired of it, rebel against it, and hopefully find your way back  to find it – but the it is still the thing.

but dont create it, shape it, lead it, grow it, and challenge the already it. That might look like a fight against it.

If youth ministry was the future once, then it once looked like a grassroots movement that changed church from the inside, and took its lead from culture, the youth culture of its time.

Now youth ministry reacts to culture and creates ministries to be relevent in culture to attract and keep young people in the same cultural forms of ministries. But where is the gospel in that? where is discipleship? where is Mission?

What if the church, and youth ministry took seriously the practices that it has dallied with – that of informal education and youth work?

The values within that ironically stem from the Christian foundations of their time in the 1950’s – voluntary participation in methodism, and democracy in the baptists, Social justice in the Salvation army, Valuing the individual as created and made by God to be in community.

If youth ministry and the church – re-thought through values, not to mention christian values and community education and practice – not just what kind of youth ministry would that create, but how might it challenge the culture of the church that youth ministry is often swamped by?

A good youthworker would build on the capacities of young people to create something new, a new piece of music, a new artistic moment, a new game, a new way of interpreting culture, or even the Biblical text (dont go there regarding the involvement of the Bible in youth ministry) . Or empower young people to create based on their abilities, their gifts and their realised potential – beyond what is already known.

A good youthworker- might let young people get on with it themselves, stand back and let some kind of magic happen.

and spend time creating a culture where that might be ok to do in a church.

What kind of young adults do we want in a church? people who lead, challenge and create, or people who follow, passive and are entertained?

And what if there are no young people in a church – well that doesnt look good for the success of national youth ministry for 50 years does it. – and there will be young people who live near to your church who dont go or who have been put off by the activities, community or culture of the church in which they occur…

Then the work of developing new forms of church with young people starts outside, and the church lets go to let it happen. Especially where the church is dying, its role should be to encourage the new, learn from the new, and support it, not be challenged or defensive by the new.

Youth Ministry – it was the future once.

Asset based Community development, using its own values,  for the whole community including the church and its culture – might just be the future.


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