It’s the end of the Church as we know it, and they (youth) feel fine.
The Western church is an inconsequential place in the life of many students. The research from the NSYR (National Study of Youth and Religion) points to this fact. Is it true? The Church has become a destination or a building. “I’m going to church.” Church is also the event happening at the building—worship, youth group, etc. Students’ attitudes towards church are impacted by their parents’ lived out ecclesiology. The church has a branding problem within society where it is treated as inconsequential until an emergency (9/11) or during an election year.
The Western church’s ecclesiological context is declining. South America and Africa are exploding with liberation and charismatic theology. In those contexts there is a communal empowerment that the Western church by and large doesn’t have. For a variety of reasons—including fill in the blank sermons and vertical worship songs—we gather as a community to worship individually, not as the body of Christ.
As Andy Root has pointed out, church is something that students consume, they gather what they need and they put it into their backpacks, without any consequential changes or ramifications to their lives or future consumptions.
We also recognize the society’s dismissal of the authority and especially the authority the church still attempts to practice. Young people struggle with authority which contributes to the undermining of theologies that are the foundation of the Christian faith.
We simply don’t have a theology of the body of Christ that is vibrant enough so that we can be the church in the world instead of a country club.
CYMT is proud to announce the expansion of our original initiative into Theology Together 2.0. CYMT aims to develop a curriculum to be used in local congregations and ministries. Taking what we have learned about engaging youth in deep theological reflection during missional experiences and embedding those processes into congregational youth ministries.
"I hope students come away from my courses with the ability to think more deeply, richly and theologically about their youth ministry practice. I think a lot of what happens in youth ministry happens unreflectively and can be deforming to young people, and my courses are intended to give students a theological framework for evaluating and reforming their youth ministry practice."
Of course, I want students to drink deeply from the academic readings, lectures and discussions, and I want them to be informed by the academics. But more than that, I want them to see that youth ministry is a calling of God, an important part of God’s mission in the world, one that should give them pride and evoke humility at the same time.