"We look at our youth group now and we feel good. But the youth group of today is the church of tomorrow, and study after study after study suggests that what we are building for the future is empty churches."
"What are we doing in our Youth Ministries that might be making people less likely to attend church as an adult? ...I believe it is “preference.” We have embraced the idea of market-driven youth ministry. Unfortunately, giving people what they “prefer” is a road, that once you go down it, has no end. Tim Elmore in his 2010 book entitled Generation iY calls this “the overindulged Generation.” They ask for more and more, and we give it to them. And more and more the power of God is substituted for market-driven experience. In an effort to give people something “attractive” and “relevant” we embraced novel new methods in youth ministry, that 20 years later are having a powerful shaping effect on the entire church."
"The opposite of giving people what they want is to give them what they need. The beauty is that Christianity already knows how to do this... Once upon a time our faith thrived in a non-Christian empire. It took less than 300 years for 11 scared dudes to take over the most powerful empire the world had ever seen. How did they do it? Where we have opted for a relevant, homogenously grouped, segregated, attractional professionalized model; the early church did it with a multi-ethnic, multi-social class, seeker INsensitive church. Worship was filled with sacrament and symbol. It engaged the believing community in the Christian narrative. This worship was so God-directed and insider-shaping that in the early church non-Christians were asked to leave the building before communion! With what effect? From that fellowship of the transformed, the church went out to the highways and byways loving and serving the least, last and lost. In that body of Christ, Christians shared their faith with Romans 1:16 boldness, served the poor with abandon, fed widows and took orphans into their homes. The world noticed. We went to them in love rather than invited them to our event."Matt Marino's post is another one among many concerning the failings of youth ministry. If you've read any of my previous posts you'll know I agree with his diagnosis almost 100%, but I still struggle with seeing what youth ministry might look like if we follow the alternative that Matt and many of the more "Reformed" minded practitioners are offering (I say this as someone who is quite Reformed/Lutheran/Anglican in theology). I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one.
On a related note, I've just started to read Timothy Keller's "Center Church" and I couldn't be more excited about some of his insights. Concerning cultural engagement he writes:
"All cultures have God's grace and natural revelation in them, yet they are also in rebellious idolatry. If we overadapt to a culture, we have accepted the culture's idols. If, however we underadapt to culture, we may have turned our own culture into an idol, an absolute. If we overadapt to a culture, we aren't able to change people because we are not calling them to change. If we underadapt to a culture, no one will be changed because no one will listen to us; we will be confusing, offensive, or simply unpersuasive. To the degree a ministry is overadapted or underadapted to a culture, it loses its life-changing power" (24)Even though I'm only 30 pages in, I think Keller's work is going to offer some powerful insights into navigating the current crisis in youth ministry. Even from the small snippet above we could say that much of the crisis in youth ministry is due to the fact that it has overadapted itself to culture. Along with this, I think many of the more "Reformed" (not Matt's by the way) responses to this crisis are often underadapted to culture. Either way they lose the "life-changing power."