Its time for a rethink in Youth Ministry.
Over the past three days I have ended up watching Ken Robinsons seminal TED talk on Education from 2006: The transcript of which is here: https://singjupost.com/schools-kill-creativity-sir-ken-robinson-transcript/ and the 18 minutes of your time are easily accessible on YouTube. The question he poses in this relates to education, but he asks:
We have a huge vested interest in it, partly because it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065.
and, then says
What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.
And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities. Picasso once said this — he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. (Ken Robinson, TED)
The questions that these pose for me arent as straightforward as to relate these specifically to the church and youth ministry, although that is possible, it is to ask the following;
What are the influence of the creativity of TED talks on the wider policy makers in UK education?
Probably not a lot. Given that since 2005 the capacity for creativity and breadth of learning in English education has shrunk rather than widened. Though attempts in Scotland had started as I left there 5 years ago. But what TED does is to promote ideas, to try and and explore the possibilities, to dream. To not be tied to the culture of current practice, but to look beyond, to look to the humans that are being formed and educated in education, not just the subjects that are assessed to enable industry to get its share of workers.
It takes an amount of guts to make bold claims about a culture and practice that has become so embedded.
So, let me put this one out there.
Have we ever asked the question to young people –
What is it you like about being involved in Youth Ministry/groups?
It may be that some young people articulate that ‘its something for them’ in the church – and in that way being relevant to that age group could be important – though youth groups have to retain relevancy as the persons get older. But other than that – the main things tend to be:
It is safe, it is social, it challenges me, Im forced to go by parents, i get to have experiences, I connect with adults, I get support.
More to the point, relevancy to the prevailing culture tends not to be what young people find fulfilling in youth ministry. It is consistency, challenge, a safe place , broadening of experiences and meaning.
Youth ministry need not to copy the world, to keep up with the times, to try and develop new strategies, policies, shapes and forms – unless they develop upon these five things, consistency, challenge, safe , experiences and for YP to find meaning in them. Without one of these there will be something lacking in youth ministry practice, for young people and they will find it elsewhere.
The problem with keeping up with Culture is that culture surrounds so subtly that we dont know we’re swimming in it. We dont also realise how the cultures in churches also affect what and how things are done. The church and youth ministrys role is not to keep trying to keep up with culture. It is to involve itself in the culture of young people, understand it from their lens, at the point of interaction, and then help them through it, help them challenge it, and also do the same. We need our theology and youth ministry to meet young peoples culture head on and be present in it. Trying to keep up with culture means that culture wags the churchs tail. But at times were all swimming in it anyway.
The reason, is that culture for every community is different, and so listening has to prioritise over previous known knowledge. Previous known universal knowledge about ‘culture’ isnt to be the benchmark – ‘all young people have iphones’ is not true and makes ‘trying to be relevant’ youth ministry look foolish.
It is to be distinctive in culture – to view our young people as creative and talented – so lets build cultures that help them thrive
It is to be distinctive in culture – to view young people as continuing to be artists – and creators – not just learners – so build a culture for creativity and construction
it is to be distinctive in culture – to view young people as anything other than thugs – so lete create spaces where their talents are not being wasted, as education might be pushing them down a medicated/troubled pathway.
To be distinctive in culture – to regard them as saints not a problem, as Promise and not at risk.
If the church was asked the same question – how are we preparing and forming young people who have 65 years of the christian life ahead of them – what would we say? How is what we do in youth work & ministry valuable in itself but also to prepare children and young people for the long haul?
And not unlike TED talks where there are many ideas and no policy makers watching, blogs, videos and facebook statuses have almost as much effect on youth ministry practice. But that doesnt mean that dreaming isnt possible, for the sake of young people long term discipleship in churches.