Emerging Youth Ministry

To be quite honest, I am kind of overwhelmed with all this “emerging” talk. How ironic that I chose to use the same language to start a blog! I have worked with teenagers for over ten years and have certainly seen trends and statistics come to life. There is probably no easier place in America to find the breakdown of traditional Christian values and church models than in the North East.

As frustrating and discouraging as it can often be to do youth ministry here, I believe the North East can be a visible sign of things to come…especially in youth ministry. Of course we are the ones that have no large churches, youth centers, buses, flashy lights, rock bands, and sweet looking and smelling cafes. However, it’s just the lack of those elements that makes the ministry here well…emerging.

What is emerging you might ask? (and if you didn’t ask, you are still going to get my answer)

There are so many definitions of what is “emerging” vs. “emergent”.

For a good one see Tony Jones blog

He writes the following:

“I get that this whole thing — emergent vs. emerging — is a meme being repeated by some people who mean well and others who, well, mean less well. But those people are making a huge mistake, methinks, because they are perpetuating the very modern mistake of separation and fragmentation. This hyper-defining is no different from the early Methodists saying, “We’re not Anglican,” and the Anglicans saying, “You’re damn right you’re not!” But what’s interesting to me is how often I’ve lately heard Anglicans say, “We never should have let John Welsey go; that was a real mistake,” and Methodists say, “Too bad we couldn’t have stayed under the umbrella of Anglicanism, because I think we’d be better for it.”

Note well, O Definers, you may define me “out” of emerging or evangelical or orthodoxy, but beware, it’ll be you next. Drawing lines and defending borders never ends well for the line-drawers because before you know it, someone has drawn a line right behind your heels and, guess what, you’re suddenly on the other side of the line with me. Line-drawing is yet another form of infinite regression.”

I agree with Tony’s take on this question that I actually forced upon you but I do still think that clarification is both necessary and beneficial.

Here’s why: Depending on who you are and some of your theological views, the term “emergent” brings up nasty little images of heretics running around burning the Bible..or something like that. So, if I labeled my blog “Emergent Youth” I would receive some critical comments and emails (and I really want you all to like me!)

“Emergent” may refer to one of the streams within the “emerging church” movement.

See the great article in Christianity Today for further thought and insight. It is based on Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger’s definition of emerging churches articulated in their book Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Baker Academic, 2005)

But again there is very little written about emerging youth ministry.

Thus the intentions of this blog.

I am no expert. Really. I am however on a journey, quite possibly with many of you to rediscover, reinvent, and redefine what youth ministry should and needs to look like in order for us to reach students for Jesus.

Throughout this endeavor you will hear (or more accurately, read) me critique even the use of phrases such as “reach teens for Jesus”,  “save the lost”, and “increase God’s kingdom”.

Youth Ministry, and quite frankly the way we talk about it, needs to change. Period.

What that looks like…i have no idea, only some guesses based on my own experiences and a few conversations with trusted friends.

Some books have been written to help begin this process and I intend to spend a great deal of time writing and commenting on many of these books that I will highly recommend for anyone in youth ministry to read.

Okay, so back to my original thought…we are finding that the traditional ways of doing Youth Ministry (Purpose Driven and Program Driven) simply do not work here…maybe where you are..but I highly doubt it.

Teenagers today (as opposed to even ten years) are too “sophisticated”, educated, busy, overstressed, politically correct, skeptical, and self entertained to show up on a Friday night to Kung Fu night at their local youth group and hear how Jesus can karate chop the devil and ninja kick sin out of your life. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!

Bigger buildings, newer game systems, more energy drinks are not the answer.

And neither is street preaching or campus revivals.

So what do we do????

We begin this journey together and walk these slippery and sometimes dangerous paths. We ask many questions, try new things, and do with with compassion, love, and humility. Perhaps at the end of this adventure we might still be lost. But, you know what? At least we will no longer be where we started.

So, please join in this conversation (a very emerging word) and let’s see where the road leads us.


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