We were blessed with a moment to sit down with Kenda Creasy Dean, who is one of the foremost researchers, authors and challengers of how our youth ministry is and needs to be. You can get more involved with Kenda’s work through the ministry of the Institute of Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary.
i've often said when working with other youth ministry leaders, 'you can get anything done if you can speak to it well.'
my thinking behind that is, my observation, that much of youth ministry actions are intuition/gut moves (some may say Holy Spirit leading, which i'm cool with). those movements are done with great intentions and well meaning, but just as i have a hard time telling folks why i am a 'nice guy' (something i've been accused of on occasion) it is hard to explain intuitive actions. coupled with, many 'professional' youth leaders are quite young and haven't had a great deal of experience working with & coaching adults sometimes twice their age. but, if you can speak to people why this or that is necessary, they are more apt to go with your leading, even if they do not completely agree. thus, an importance to speaking well of what you are doing in ministry.
with that in mind, i was quite excited to read some of rob bell's thoughts on youth ministry in this interview with youth worker journal. he speaks so well to some of the issues i feel at hand for our current crop of youth growing up in youth ministries around the country.
YWJ: OK, the magic bullets, if you don't mind.
dominant paradigm in churches is production, not discipleship. It's
about how to keep kids coming—how are the numbers? In the gospels,
whenever there were large crowds, Jesus gave a difficult teaching that
thinned out the crowd. Over and over, He chose those moments: John 6—Unless
you eat my flesh and drink my blood. Nice. Very accessible for kids.
There is a certain pattern where He's trying to find out who is
serious. Youth workers are put in this position where their paychecks
are based on how many people they can keep in the place. When they read
the gospels, they realize this whole system seems to be going the other
direction. Many youth pastors I've met are promoting something they
YWJ: Like what?
told by the senior pastor to encourage the students to attend the
service where there's a seven-part sermon on raising funds for a giant
building, and kids don't really buy it. At the same time, the kids are
wearing a red bracelet and becoming passionate about AIDS and water in
Darfur. So the youth pastors and the kids sit in a system that says the
preservation of this system is the first priority, and they look around
at these giant issues of justice that are demanding a generation to
step up and do something about it; and guess what they do?
this excerpt i pulled basically because it shares two tensions i feel in youth ministry, 1. the need to have top notch programming & 2. the culture of preservation (something i feel is paramount, not in a good way, in my mainline tribe). those two things are just not part of the Kingdom of God that i envision.. now, can #1 be a gateway, sure.. can #1 help in discipleship, sure.. but at what cost are we going so overboard that we loose sight of our goals.. living at Christ lived, loving as Christ loved. to me that isn't grounded in a program or an institution. those are ground out in relationships beyond human measures and being remarkable because you have been inspired to be that way.
anyways, check out the interview i could go on and on with the various questions & answers.