Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In Touch With Jesus - time.com

This article seems to have some encouraging information about the state of youth ministry in the United States. The time magazine article describes the move from youth ministry "wrapped in pop-culture packaging" to youth ministry that studies the Bible and doctrine.

What do you think? Is this accurate of youth ministry in the USA? Is this accurate with the culture in Australian youth ministries?

(h/t to JT for article)


Tim Roediger said...

This is indeed an ecouraging article. Earlier this year I looked through Soul Searching by Christian Smith. Unfortunately I didn't have time to read the whole book carefully, but it painted a slightly different picture. Whilst games and MTV style youth group may be falling out of fashion, it appears it may be replaced by feelgood mystical spirituallity that has little connection with the doctrinal substance of the Christian faith.

Let's hope the TIME's suggestion that the Bible is making a comeback is a real resurgance of Christian doctrine changing youth people's lives.

CJ said...

Interesting article. It's definitely encouraging to see some of our American brothers and sisters in Christ focussing their youth ministry around solid bible-based teaching.

"Believing that a message wrapped in pop-culture packaging was the way to attract teens to their flocks, pastors watered down the religious content and boosted the entertainment."

Sounds exactly like the way our youth group was run up until about six or seven years ago.

"The vast majority of teens who call themselves Christians...don't really know what they believe...with all the competing demands on their time, religion becomes a low priority, and so they practice their faith in shallow ways."

I think this is definitely a reality that we see when youth ministry is not bible-focussed. From my own personal experience as a kid in a youth group that was focussed on fun this was most certainly the case. I wasn't receiving regular biblical teaching (through youth group at a level pitched to teens), and my life certainly reflected that.

"When Chris Reed failed to convert a single youngster during one 12-month period soon after taking over as youth minister at Calvary in 1995...in 2003, a record 64 teens accepted Christ as their saviour at Calvary. "We're healthy spiritually," Reed says."

I think we need to be really careful how we measure the 'success' of our youth ministry. Simply looking at the numbers of kids that come along each week isn't a good measure of how well we are ministering (some youth groups will attract more due to their 'fun' content - although at our church, our youth groups are actually much larger now under a bible-based model than they were under a fun-based model).

Even assessing how many kids are becoming Christian is only part of determining how effective a youth ministry is, I think. Whilst it is important to be encouraging evangelism, and getting the kids to witness to their friends and bring them along to youth group, a youth group should also be a place where the kids who are already believers can be strengthened and matured in their faith. In many ways I think that this is a better assessment of how 'successful' a youth ministry is - take a look at the core kids and see how mature they are in their faith...

St Matts Youth

Tim Roediger said...

Hey cj, your comments on measureing the success of a youth ministry resonate with some of my own thoughts, which I hope to develop a little more in the future.

However the essence of my thought is that:

* Numbers are the easiest, but least reliable way to measure success.
* Growing godliness of those who come is the hardest, but most reliable way to measure success.