Marko has tagged me. He asks me to record some reflections on what youth ministry will be like in the next 50 years in light of the CT article. Of course, I don’t know what will happen — but, in light of how the world is changing, here are some thoughts:
1. The current craze for “intergenerational” connections is missing something serious: the process of growing up is called individuation and that phase involves teenagers separating from parents in order to form a healthy, separate identity. So, I hope — and I think time will prove this after some try an intergenerational thing — we’ll realize that age-specific ministries for teenagers is not only healthy but needful. Yes, integrate kids into the church itself, but let them have the space they need to form both personal and spiritual identity.
2. I hope we see a shift from programs to personal discipleship. I really don’t know much about it, but I sense many youth leaders are looking for the newest series or the newest entire agenda of how to build a successful youth ministry. Fine. But, what we need is a clear summons for the youth to follow Jesus Christ, and to orient whatever we do around that. In other words, we need to preach and teach and “institutionalize” a holistic gospel and integrate it from Day One in our educational ministries.
3. I hope we will return to Bible education. Let me tell you as a college professor that the state of biblical literacy in kids who grow up in the church is embarrassing. I hope entire denominations return to Bible memorization of passages (why can’t kids memorize not only the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes and the Love Chapter, but also the Sermon on the Mount or Romans 3?). And I hope we have high schoolers read through the whole Bible. We’ve got assessment down in education, but that leads to measurable goals and objectives. How about having a curriculum called “The Prophets” for a year or a summer and have SS teachers and Youth Leaders teach students the Bible?
4. The world is increasingly Islamicized. We need students to be educated in World religions, both descriptively — this is what the Koran says — and comparatively — how do Muslims, Jews, and Christians differ on sin or atonement or eschatology?
5. I hope the next generation of leaders will help our youth think critically — learning to describe what others say, learning what the options are for thinking through a serious topic (a taxonomy of views), comparing views, establishing the critical evidence for making a judgment, and then rendering judgment and having the frickin’ courage to stand up for what they think.
6. I hope the next generation will learn that evangelism is both embodiment and verbal — not just sharing your faith, but telling your story and living the story with others and asking others to consider that story for a whole life. So, I hope the next generation embodies the missional focus we are talking so much about these days.
7. I hope we will move to more time for youth ministers to spend with kids rather than less time. I don’t know how much “hanging out with kids time” is right now; but the more the better.
8. I’m reasonably confident that we will see more churches cooperating with one another across denominational lines and that we will see, in turn, more cooperation between youth ministers and youth groups.