I read and hear all the time how youth are changing. I also read and hear about how culture is changing. I wonder though if our youth ministry approaches are changing… and if they should.
I feel like there is a tension in the church about what is considered “good” youth ministry. Perhaps these two questions can frame the tension: 1) is good youth ministry focused on addressing the developmental needs of teenagers? Or 2) is good youth ministry focused on the cultural issues of youth?
I wonder if our human development issues during adolescence, no matter our culture, are substantive enough to be the only thing really worth paying attention to in youth ministry? After all, there is so much going on in this stage of life. If we learn how to program a ministry that helps youth work through these adolescent development issues, shouldn’t that kind of ministry be transferable anywhere in anytime? Youth today experience raging hormones, an exploding intellectual capability, and major confusion about identity. So did youth 10 years ago, 20 years ago, and according to some recent research, so did youth 500 years ago.
I also wonder if the cultural issues surrounding youth are substantive enough to be the only thing really worth paying attention to in youth ministry? After all, there is no reality to a young person like their own. If we learn to adapt our message of good news to the cultural context of the youth in our youth group, we are more likely to get that message across in ways that are actually good news. This also means that we are required to continually adapt and change that message – and the programs in our youth ministry – to connect with the rapidly changing youth culture.
Over the next couple of weeks, I would like to take some time here to wrestle with these issues. If anyone is reading along, I would love to hear your thoughts along the way.
Which of these two questions above would most characterize the church you know best and their approach to youth ministry? What questions arise from this introduction?