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Monday, June 30, 2003

DONE
Well, I hate to put this here, but I wanted y'all to know what is going on. My husband and I have told the Elders of our church to take our resume off the list altogether. I don't want to get into it but has been alot said and done to us. We really prayed about it and thought this was the best way. We have also stepped down from teaching the kids altogher also. This hurts the most. I dread telling the kids what we have decided. Anyway, I just wanted y'all to know. I want you to know how much I have enjoyed reading and being challanged by each one of you. May God bless each of you through this journey. Please pray for us as we go silent before the Lord and seek Him with what our next step is. Thank you.........................Jewels...................

Friday, June 27, 2003

Would you be interested?
If there was a three day conference where you could gather with other emerging thinkers in which over two of the days we held a sort of mini conference discussing Re-imagining Youth Ministry would you come? the cost would be around $99 for the registration. You could mix with church planters etc..
it would be in October in Boston. anyone interested? Questions.
I just had a very interesting conversation that might make this a reality.
what do you think?

Thursday, June 26, 2003

The emerging youth worker

I say " we should eliminate the position of youth pastor" it's not a new thing for me to say this. And if there's one thing I get regular emails about it's this.
I'm called to youth ministry. God told me to minister to youth. etc etc.
Let me clarify my position a bit.
I do not believe in youth ministry.
I do believe in ministering to youth.
I do not believe in youth groups.
I do believe in youth getting together regularly doing things.
I do not believe in family ministry, where we invite parents and adults into our youth group.
I do believe in family ministry, where the body of Christ minister to students in natural ways, throught the overflow of their relationship with God.

Are these things really all that different? I say yes.
What do you think the differences are? I'll elaborate later.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Read a great article by Chap Clark, Fuller Seminary prof of Youth and Family Ministry, call “From Fragmentation to Integration: A Theology of Contemporary Youth Ministry." Excellent and helpful for what we've been discussing here. I've tried to find it on the web, but to no avail - it appears in the American Baptist Quarterly Vol. XVIX, No. 1 (March 2000), pp. 45-55. Here's a brief synopsis that I wrote for class. If others are able to read it I think it would make for some good discussion on reimagining church/ym. Here's what I wrote:

Clark describes and evaluates contemporary youth ministry as analogous to an adolescent who has strained relationship with their parent, the local church. Because of this there is a lack of theological reflection and insight which has result from, and in, increased pragmatic approaches to ministry without thoughtful insight. Youth ministry often functions as a “one eared Mickey-Mouse” in relation to the local church and the youth leader is seen as the primary contact to the youth. Fragmentation is the prevailing characteristic of our churches, youth ministries, families, and culture. In light of this, Clark offers a theological response to the future of youth ministry. This response includes a theology of the family, which maintains that the nuclear/extended family is the primary system for raising children; a theology of the church, which promotes unity of all persons in the community of faith rather than a splintering of age-segmentation; and a theology of cross-generational relationships, which encourages the passing on of faith from older generations to the younger.
Why Intergenerational?

I think perhaps we would do well to establish scripturally, theoretically, and practically; why our ministries should be intergenerational. Perhaps this answer will help us look at steps for the future and the traits youth ministry (and ministry in general!) can take in order to facilitate the new shapes our ministries take.

I don't think Paul was necessarily talking about youth / adult in his "in Christ there is no .... " thing -- otherwise he would have mentioned it. But that doesn't mean there isn't a scriptural basis for intergenerational ministry. So let's find it. Really find it. Not a single verse somewhere, but an underlying theme. What do you think?

Sunday, June 15, 2003

*This is sorta a response to the 12 (so far) comments on the last post, but wanted to start out fresh on the main page…

In response to the dialogue about what youth ministry is/isn’t, which raises the question of the church and what it is. I think that is exactly where we need to be. If we continue to define church as we have in the midst of modernity/enlightenment then we will view church in at least three ways that are not helpful or biblical.

One, church as a place. Is the church ever referred to in Scripture as a place? I don’t think it is (if you know of one then let me know). Church is the people of God – gathered and scattered. If church is only a place we go where we do “Jesusy” things, then we’ll continue to work at ways to get more people to come to church (cuz, that’s the implicit goal we espouse).

Two, specialization. In our effort to minister efficiently (like all good modernists) we specialize in to categories, we reduce, compartmentalize. Of course, we do it so as to be more effective (that’s what we tell ourselves) and speak to the “felt” need of our “target audience” to which we specialize. But, I think Paul’s deal about in Christ slave/free, Greek/Jew, male/female have unity applies to Youth/Adult (not to mention Children). Reconciliation isn’t just about races and nations, but also about young and old.

Three, homogenization. Closely related to specialization, of course, is the homogenous unit principle of the Church Growth movement. The idea is that unbelievers will be most attracted to the gospel if they can connect with people like them (ethnicity, social status, etc…). This has worked (pragmatically) extremely well (i.e. Saddleback, Willow Creek, seeker sensitive model) in getting lots of people. But, again, doesn’t the kingdom of God include a rich diversity. I think we need reconciliation here as well.

What I don’t know is how we get from here to there! What practices, attitudes, and relationships need to be cultivated to move us out of fragmentation to reconciliation? Are any of those things (place, specialization, homogenization) biblical/of Christ?

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

I was thinking about this. In rethinking Youth Ministry. How would you describe youth ministry?
As a business?
As a program?
An organism?
An arm of the church?
What?
or is youth ministry good for anything?

Monday, June 09, 2003

A receipe for insanity.

For context. I'm sitting in a coffee house in Grand Rapids right now listening to Eminem while I write this.
here we go.

There is a gaping whole of support for youth pastors / pastors right now.
they are rethinking church, God, Jesus, not knowing what they beleive about all these things.
They are asking themselves questions like. Who is God. What is the church? What is the Gospel?
similtaneously they are teaching a congregation to be faithful to God adn be the church for the sake of the Gospel.
they have to operate (flawlessly) in the old model teaching things they don't believe anymore or things they are only beginning to grasp.
This is a receipe for insanity.

Add to the fact taht many of them think they are crazy for rethinking all these questions and wrestling with the fact that they might be heretics and the trials of normal ministry... life can get real hard.

I'm beginning to think that taking a break is part of reimagining youth ministry.
Time out of paid ministry.
when you take a break. focus on rethinking things. Ask questions. Bitch and moan. Gripe and complain. but don't sin. Vent your anger. detox yourself spiritually.
talk to lots of people. write. journal. play. sleep in on sundays for a while.
take as much time as you need. prayerfully consider that this is a calling. a gift from God to refresh, to clean your spiritual colon.
This move may be essential in your journey to reimagine things.

If you are taking time away now. by choice or not. be focused. get together with people. travel to see people you need to talk to. call them and tell them you are coming and that you want them to help you find a place to sleep. Searching for a youth ministry job? prayerfully consider all these things.
Thanks aaron for your post below. These are things I've been thinking all morning. Then I read your post.
So I'm putting it here. thoughts?
So, I resigned from my part-time youth ministry position. Why? Emotional and spiritual health. Basically, I felt like my soul was drying up inside of me and I needed Sabbath-space in my life. It seemed like everywhere I turned I had responsibilities. I need space in my life.

As you can imagine, there have been those who have been wonderfully supportive and encouraging (my wife being the most) and there have been others who have been (are presently) very angry with me. In addition to the emotional and spiritual lessons God is teaching me through this (including being God-pleasing rather than addicted to "people-pleasing"), I've also learned something interesting about youth ministry...

One of the big concerns some have had is that I would be letting the youth down. We had only been at this youth ministry thing at this church for 6 months and hadn't really established a solid "youth group" (in the traditional sense). This is, of course, seen as a failure and a waste of money. The most interesting thing is that the youth themselves aren't really feeling very "let down"!

This is what I think - they haven't been terribly committed to coming to our weekly program (we've only been doing it for about 12 weeks and once no one showed up) so they have very little expectation for a youth group in the traditional one-eared Mickey sense. They were more concerned whether or not we would still be at the church (i.e. maintain the friendship we had developing - we do plan to remain at the church as long as it is acceptable). It seems to me like the youth are more concerned for having adult friends in Christ than having a program tailored to their needs and a group exclusively for them.

I'm not eschewing programs. I know we have all ready discussed that here on the blog. Programs are still functional and appropriate and they have their place. But what I'm becoming more convinced of than ever is that the goal of our ministry should not be to create a great program in and of itself) or an exclusive, age-segmented group for youth. Rather, we have the privilege and honor of being persons present in the lives of youth helping them connect with the larger body of Christ in our locale. Incorporating (I choose that word on purpose for its "corporeal" origins) them into the local church/community of faith/body of Christ.

Maybe that seems like "old hat", but it doesn't seem like it's talked about enough. How do we do that? How do programs and exclusive youth activities fit into that? Should someone get paid for that sort of work? I don't know all those answers, but I know my ministry doesn't hang on whether or not I'm getting paid or the leader of the pack. If we become obsessed with creating an awesome and attractive program and group just for youth and consider incorporating into the body as a secondary importance then it is huge deal if the leader quits in the process. If, on the other hand, we are more concerned about youth finding their home in our local family of faith, then a leader's unexpected absence isn't seen as life-shaking or debilitating. Naturally, I'm speaking out of my pain and desire for ministry to continue at our church, but I don't think I'm just reacting or trying to scapegoat my leaving.

What do you think? Am I in "left-field" with this or does it make sense?

Friday, June 06, 2003

Anyone else faced with this disappointing reality?
This weekend I will read the names of all the graduates who "attend" our church. Of the 25 names I will call, I know 23 people. 21 of the 25 have not attended anything student ministry related this year, although some have joined other local groups. 7 of them don't attend church at all. I've been here five years. I have come face-to-face with the reality that I have done a horrible job of connecting with the upperclassmen in my own church. That floored me for a few days these past two weeks. But my wife and I (awesome college picture)have started praying. We are going to spend the summer re-connecting with students. No program, just time together over burgers and dogs, lots of prayer, some late nights hanging out and talking/listening with students. It's not rocket science, is it?
What is the difference between being mission-minded and being kingdom-minded?

Thursday, June 05, 2003

My new book's Table of Contents
Interesting point that I've read from Dan. Churches seemed to be focused on the 3Bs - Buildings, Budgets, and Bodies ...The interesting thing is how do we get past that and rethink and be a mission-minded church? Sure there are problems and messy people
but how can we be the Grace-Wholesaler to them? I have more questions than answers I'm afraid.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

A story in my imagination. Part 6?
Journal March 1, 2000

When I'm really real with myself... I'm not sure I like myself. Here I am a youth pastor in a church teaching students to be a good self image and I don't have it together myself. God what is going on in my head? The things I hate most about the people around me are the very things I'm most guilty of.
I'm not sure how much more of this I can take.
I don't believe in youth minstry anymore. Am I loosing my faith.
Noone in my church understands what I'm going through. I love students. I think. The truth is I put so much time, energy, and effort into dreaming up programs, selling my programs, and appeasing people that I'm not sure I really love doing this anymore. Sure there's a part of me who loves it. who wouldn;t. It's cushy. My job is not really that hard in the scheme of life. I'm not paving roads, or mining coal.
I find that ministry helps me feel important. I get to lead, I get to have the answers, I get to nurture those around me.
Those around me tend to be students and misfit adults called youth workers. Those are the only people I feel like leading. Oh. Well. Except when I get into a conversation about the rest of the church. I know how we should run it. I know how I'd change things.
Somethings tells me I need a break.
A break to listen to God.
A break to be still.
A break that's not just another day off.
A break that I can reflect on my motives.
Some day's I can't even add 2+2.
Maybe I need a break just to not think.

Hard Question for you and me.
Most youth pastors get into ministry to take care of students spiritually. They dive right in. Many times they implement experiences similar to those they went through as a kid.
Are you doing this ministry to meet a need you have? If the answer is yes. take a break. (be honest)If you skip this... it will screw up everything.
Youth pastor church planters:
Maybe we need more church planters.
Maybe the best way to minster to youth will be start churches that operate in a more healthy way for students and their families.
Misc. thoughts on Starting from scratch staples:
Generally when starting a new church, you have a senior pastor.
Job Description:
The Pastor of Quest of the Xtreme apprentices of Jesus and his Journey church
If your church is hip you will call this person the "lead pastor" or cultural archetict or something.
It was generally this guys idea to start the church.
Too many of these folks start the churches because they've had a bad experience somewhere else.

worship pastor (who actually isn't in charge of worship just singing)
youth pastor or maybe the youth and childrens' pastor. the person who's in charge of the youth and children.

These descriptions are pretty normal for new churches.
The problem is that it's a bad start. If you start a church with the understanding that one of the staff's role is to take care of youth, or to minister to youth or to lead the programs for youth... you are on the wrong road.

Maybe start here.
You're a guy/gal who has a heart for nurturing youth.

Let's say you are ready to nurture kids.
don't start a student group, or a bible study for students, or any thing that seperates them in the beginning.
Start a group for adults and invite students. (note: most 21year old's are not adults)
Andy is having some signs of hope, while tonight our church begins the 3 "S's" (Soak, Seek and Snuggle). This sucks and I am going to change the name when I talk about it to "Suck Suckity Sucks." Anyway, I am going to go tonight but that may be it for me. I am still ill about the whole deal.

On a brighter note, when are into our summer activities, which includes going into the inner city during the week and hanging out, finding homes to work at (paint, clean etc.) and some of the kids have already befriended some other youth in the area. We are using one church in the area for a "base" that we store our material and bring people back to during the day. It is going to be an interesting summer.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I started working this week for an organization that does what the church should be doing but doesn't... namely going into lower income and government subsidized apartment complexes just to be with the kids, find out what their needs are, and attempt to meet some of those needs while emphasizing the relationships built with those kids. All this as opposed to going into these areas to "minister" by giving hand-me-down clothes, doing a Church song and dance routine, and handing out flyers for their church. It's really very cool.

Being around a lot of the people who work there, though, has caused me to realize just how out of the "Christian" sub-culture that I am. They use words that I've never heard of before, and talk about people who I have no idea about like they're household names. I can't tell you how many times I've had to say, "What is this?" or "Who is that?" Personally, I am rather glad about this fact... the Christian subculture is the one thing I don't mind being ignorant of. And the only thing that keeps them from being like most of the "church people" I've encountered over the course of my life is that, when I turn around and mention elements of the culture at large, they know what I'm talking about. It's like they are fully in both cultures, which I think is pretty amazing.

Not that I'm about to go entrench myself into the "TBN" culture. I think my head would collapse in on itself.

Monday, June 02, 2003

A Spark?

In staff meeting today, at our typically mainline denomination congregation of people-pleasers, some people suddenly asked themselves about a program we were doing and about their own work. The associate pastor suddenly began venting as we were talking about whether our "Wednesday programming" should be catered and how much it should cost -- he had a revelation. It was cool. He asked "why is all my energy in saving the program, marketing the program, and running cost analysis on the program, are we neglecting our calling in teaching ministry?! I'm sick of talking about these programs!"

Our new Pastoral Assistant from a seminary said "well are we ready to take these things apart and ask why we do them, ask the hard questions, or are we just asking how much this will cost and whether we should do it; how many will come; etc.?"

The Associate turned to me and said "Andy, the parts of youth ministry that you emphasize, you seem to get more of the good things into your ministry, the teaching, the faith development... but how do we do this for adults?!" I looked at him and instantly everything he does at church blinked through my mind, and probably had gone through his as well. I realized it's not that he doesn't do ministry, it was that he did so much else that interferes.

I answered "invite them to youth group and quit calling it youth group. what we do is church, but not as an institution, but rather as a lifestyle."

They are catching on. There are tears in my eyes typing this because I believe things are happening here. It takes a long long time to turn a large ship around. But we are beginning to turn the wheel. Praise God!!!