Category Archives: Youth Leadings

Ministry vs. Group

Last night while sitting on the porch swing watching my youngest son get his Bamm Bamm on with a plastic bat and big bouncy ball, I read a good portion of Mike King‘s Presence-centered Youth Ministry:  Guiding Students into Spiritual Formation.  I’m gearing up to facilitate a special track for the high school graduates at our regional Quaker high school camp.  The title of Mike’s book hits right where my spirit thinks we should be heading:  creating space for grads to question, reflect, explore their identity rooted in Christ, and dream of the future.  And have fun:  but I’ll let the other staff people head that part up.  🙂

Mike’s take on youth ministry (and ministry in general) has had a *significant* shift over the years.  Currently he worships at Jacob’s Well where he says they have a youth ministry, but not a youth group per se.  The youth are very much a part of the congregation, not segregated to the youth room.  Some people work more with the youth, but it sounds like the congregation is more integrated through mentoring, walking alongside a specific youth for a time.  And the youth walk alongside the adults as the gathering worships together and shares the light of Christ in their daily lives and neighborhoods.

In my history of being part of faith communities I realized that those who are “group”-oriented seem more clubish, more “come in, be one of us”, more fractured, more self-interested.  Those that were “ministry”-0riented thought of the bigger picture, had more awareness of the each other, practiced more over-arching hospitality.  And in my faith gathering we have many ministries, but not a lot of groups … but the places where there are groups, we seem to have more lack of communication and conflict with each other …

My boys are part of the childrens’ *ministry*, but once they become teens, they’ll be part of a youth *group*.  This is not to say that youth leaders are not needed, but when one is known as The Youth Pastor, one seems to shoulder all the responsibility of those in that age group.  I’m sure different pastors would say different things regarding other being involved, but my observation has been “I’ll volunteer with the kids, but once they’re teens, they’ll go off their merry way:  it’s what they want, after all, because we aren’t communicating well, and I’d love a break.”

I wonder where other “group” mentalities take place:  perhaps with seniors?  “Well, this way they can sing songs they like and talk about things important to them:  they’re happier off over there in their Group.”  Perhaps recovery programs?  “Oh, they wouldn’t want to talk to me:  I don’t understand their experience, and I’d probably say something stupid anyway.”  Ethnic groups?  Etc …

I love being part of the women’s ministry at NFC, but if I knew if was a “group”, honestly I’d pack up my knitting needles and head elsewhere:  I refuse to be segregated.  Integration would be wonderful, but methinks that requires some humbleness and vulnerability and risk of rejection and practice of hospitality:  not necessarily easily-taken postures, but oh so worth it.

Does Your Youth Group Need a Rabies Shot?

The fatal sin is building our churches and youth ministries around the appetites, desires and wishes of our congregations.

At my “Why Young Adults Don’t Attend Church” workshop, a person threw out a concept I’d pondered but hadn’t put such eloquent words to. As of late Ive been recognizing that my high school church experience was segregated: my friends and I were quarantined to our safe youth-group experience where we were entertained, occasionally we gave back if we had to, and we created a community of folks who were pretty Wonder bread (bland, palatable, nutritious . . .to a degree). I had some awesome experiences, events and folks who helped shape me into the person that I am today, but it was a pretty self-centered, demanding, consuming experience. The image I got was that of a rabid dog: theyre foaming at the mouth to consume, consume, consume: just to bite down on something – but nothing ever satisfies that mad craving.

The person at my workshop talked about how youth ministry as we know it is dying. Youth leaders are recognizing that theyre creating false communities – communities that last only as long as the kids are in school, and then they dissipate, causing the individuals to flounder as they are community-less. They look to the larger church, but are so used to their self-centered experience that they dont know how to participate. And they mourn for the loss of their community, not knowing how to experience that again.

My mother-in-law sent me this article, talking about all this stuff – again, much more eloquently than I ever could.

For years now we have watched as study after study and survey after survey tell us what we already know- those students who graduate out of our professionally led youth ministries struggle to maintain their church connectedness during their college years. For me it tends to be one of two things: either my graduates end up being cling-ons- graduates who find ways to still hang around the youth ministry – or they simply disappear a few months into their college careers, and I end up hearing about them after theyve moved to another church or out of the church altogether.

What happens is that we feed the beast when we leave our teens with the impression that, like everywhere else in the world, they are consumers who by their consumeristic nature drive the shaping and programming of the church. When we are consumers, then we have the impression that we are or should be in control. We, the consumers; we tell the church how we need it to be. Is it any wonder then, that our little consumers shun the authority of the Church? How much authority can the Church have if the Church does whatever I tell it to do?

Oooh, good stuff. So, what are your thoughts? Do you see this type of rabid-attitude in your youth? Have you succumbed to it as well? How did you become free – to turn and focus on Christ rather than your self?