Changing Youth Ministry

MarkO– the president of Youth Specialties– recently commented on his blog that YS is primarily responsible for communicating a youth ministry philosophy that was negative and unhelpful. Definately a statement of courage and boldness. Here is an excerpt from his post:

While youth specialties certainly isn’t solely responsible, i think it’s very fair to say we should bear the brunt of the blame. yes, youth specialties is primarily responsible for promoting – for decades – a model of youth ministry, built on a set of assumptions (mostly unstated), that elevated programming as the best path to successful youth ministry. and for this – i will speak for us, organizationally – we are sorry.


Definately a statement of courage and boldness. I am so glad that he is willing to do this. Many in this field that I am a part of have been calling for such an admission by the world of youth ministry for a while. For too long, ymin has been about glitz and the stage– big events that get a lot of students to come out and make a confession of faith (without any true understanding that faith is participating in a community of people who live a certain way and have a certain vision for the world that corresponds to how Jesus lived in mission here; and without a true understanding that confession is an expression of such a vision and way of life).

Many on MarkO’s blog were complaining that although a failure has been admitted, no help has been given as to what youth ministry should be. I do not agree with these sentiments. Youth ministry is about a community of faith that centers around Eucharist and Baptism– the primary practices of the church that give the whole community vision about suffering, resurrection, forgiveness, and reconciliation. That community of faith must find ways together to practice this faith in tangible ways in the world– i.e. offering table fellowship (acceptance and forgiveness in 1st century language) to the people we encounter daily and to people groups (nations) that are encountered as the church is in the world.

This is just a complicated way of saying, youth ministry needs good churches. Good churches form people in the way of Christ and youth ministry is one part of that. Such ideas may seem simplistic and idealistic, but they are the answer to our questions. Jesus’ answer to the world: get wet and eat! Jesus’ answer to us in youth ministry: get wet and eat!

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