When the Christian story no longer seems compelling
The looming crisis in youth ministry is that young people have examined the church and judged it to be inauthentic and irrelevant. In spite of our best efforts, young people in our culture are simply not convinced that the church is an important or necessary voice in the world—or, maybe it is, but their contribution is inconsequential to the church’s mission in the world.
Kids are going where they believe they matter, to those causes whose message is, “We can’t do this great work without you” (a message young people almost never hear convincingly from their churches). Being needed (not to mention wanted) is compelling stuff. If kids can’t get that from the institutions they grew up loving, they’ll grow to love the institutions from which they get that affirmation.
That said, this crisis in youth ministry is not one of institutional preservation or survival. The church’s missional witness is anemic because we have domesticated the gospel. We are in the grip of an ecclesial identity crisis that strikes at the heart of the nature and witness of the church in a post-modern, post-Christian, globalized context.
We envision the recovery of a revitalized and robust missional ecclesiology that offers a compelling vision for the church that will draw people into relationship with God, engage them in authentic relationships in the community of faith, and propel them into the world to embody their missional vocation. This missional witness engages kids as consequential contributors to the church’s participation in the missio dei rather than inconsequential consumers of our programs. Missional witness is formed as young people are drawn into theological and spiritual reflection on the practices of serving and witnessing to God’s reign in places of deep need and brokenness.
- Make the message “The church can’t do this without youth—youth are needed!” Youth can make a difference and transform their “church” through worship, spiritual experiences, serving, and mission. Our adults want what our youth often experience. They want to become involved in what the youth experiences are. The youth can add energy and excitement to live out the gospel in the church.
- Look at liberation theologies emerging out of Latin America and urban American settings.
- How many adults in our churches share this same view—”I don’t really matter to the church and vice versa”—yet participate out of obligation, habit, unhealthy needs, guilt, etc.
- How do we define gospel?
- Stop segregating youth as a separate component of the body of Christ. Stop developing such specialized programming and ministry for them and work to integrate them more fully into the whole life of the church.
- Testimony of those with stories of God’s intersection with their own lives.
- Stop developing ministries that mirror popular culture in appearance and program and provide radically different experiences of inclusive communities that only the church can offer.
- Missional Ecclesiology—Guder, Bosch, Van Gelder
- Hollow Gospel by Stephen Ingram (Summer 2012 by CYMT Press)
- Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
- Processes for structuring kids as co-creators of the church—moving beyond the good idea to an actual blueprint.
- Can we design this or will it have to emerge?