Youth Ministry 3.0


I recently read an abbreviated version of Youth Ministry 3.0 entitled “Marko’s manifesto for the next generation”. It was published in Youth Worker Journal November/December 2008.

In this article, Marko continues to elaborate and expound upon his premise outlined in his most recent book.

He argues that in the past, Youth Ministry 1.0 was built and focused on proclaiming messages to students.

Youth Ministry 1.0 = proclamation-driven

Generations later, a new wave of youth ministry began focusing on programs to attract, retain, and educate teenagers.

Youth Ministry 2.0 = program-driven

Times are changing, as we all know, and we as youth pastors need to adapt our methods, philosophies, and strategies of youth ministry in order to effectively reach students with the radical love of Jesus.

It’s not a structural thing.  Changing our mid-week program or adding a new “community” or “mission” program might be a temporary quick fix, but will not withstand the growing needs of today’s teens.

Quickies never last very long nor are they deeply satisfying.

No, our entire approach to youth ministry needs to change.

This new wave of youth ministry is described by Marko as “not-driven”, meaning having less agendas, less structure and formal ministry times, and less ministry ad on’s.

Youth Ministry 3.0 = Not-driven

As youth pastors, are we willing to substitute our mid-week programs to build better relationships?

Can we eliminate our Sunday evening worship team rehearsal and annual youth conference for intentional times of small groups and community service?

Marko makes a point that perhaps Youth Ministry 3.0 will include the morphing together of local youth ministries in order to provide opportunities for all types of students to connect and grow. If we don’t do that, then head to the church down the road….that type of thing.  But this would be done intentionally and withing the framework of networking and partnership together, not to satisfy the consumerist nature of teens.

He also argues that this new type of youth ministry may include multiple youth ministries (not cliques) within the same church. These could provide the opportunity to establish “contextualized, present (not-driven) ministries of communion and mission in multiple youth culture contexts.”

Meaning this…for one type of student, delving into the Word of God is necessary and beneficial for their spiritual formation.

For another type of student, they truly grow closer to Jesus by serving the less fortunate and demonstrating acts of compassion.

Yet another connects with the presence of Christ in the fellowship of others sharing a meal, movie, and a laugh.

Others…it is worship and still others develop spiritually through the ancient spiritual disciplines.

I think you see the point.

Now, a youth ministry can try to offer all of these each week (probably not going to happen)

Or, it can try to incorporate these elements over an entire semester/year.  Our youth ministry has been striving towards this end for a few years.

But I wonder what it would look like to restructure an entire youth ministry around these “multiple youth culture contexts”?

It certainly could have geographic and demographic implications, but I tend to believe that different students need to encounter Jesus differently and at different times, so the implications and affiliations would hopefully be more spiritual, cultural, and contextual.

Perhaps our mid-week one size fits all approach to “youth group” is really only ministering effectively to a few groups of students.  I mean, others come and may even play a few games and listen to the message, but month after month they are not seriously connecting with others or with the God who they desperately yearn for.

“For teenagers desperate to define their identities through affinity, we need to help them experience true community. True community doesn’t mean once-a-week, highly programmed youth group meetings…True community is life-on-life, eating together, sharing journeys, working through difficulties and serving side-by-side, wrestling with praxis (theology in practice), openness, accountability, safety, cultivating shared passions and holy discontent. True community is not a program, not something people sign up for, not something we force.”

What an incredible and challenging thought from Marko. This strikes me to the core as I realize how often in my ministry I have tried to promote a program for building community and making disciples.

But the last time I checked, discipleship is not something taught and learned, it is something lived.

The same is true for community.

I wonder what would happen if youth pastors joined together and starting caring less about how many students come on a given night, and more about how many students we truly connected with each week, month, year, etc.. How many lives we actually entered into it.

Marko issues this challenge:  “Strip down your programming so you have space to spend time with teenagers and God and consider rebuilding something new and fresh”.

I hear ya Marko, and God help all of us to put into practice what we know we should be doing..and why we we hopefully went into youth ministry in the first place.



6 thoughts on “Youth Ministry 3.0

  1. “Perhaps our mid-week one size fits all approach to “youth group” is really only ministering effectively to a few groups of students. ”

    This is insightful. Midweek group is an end that fist a need. But some students only like events, some only like hanging out, some only like camps, etc. We have to get away from defining our youth ministry solely by our midweek night programs.

  2. check page 82…

    I’ve been struggling with the application side of this book, there is a great community on facebook working through how to actually do this as Marko doesn’t give really any application. He does it on purpose citing that it should be contextualized to you situation. I particularly appreciate that because the application section in any youth ministry book is useless in the northeast, it just doesnt work that way here. I am struggling through this trying to figure it out, there is something great about this and terrifying at the same time.

    Us Northeaster’s have a difficult and unique situation here. I agree with you about the application sections in most YM books to be not very helpful to our contexts. Hopefully some more writings and thoughts will emerge from the Northeast, but even at that, every particular state, region, and county is different. New Jersey is different that MA, which is different than ME, etc..
    However, taken as a whole, there are by far more similarities than differences and the Northeast region is vastly different from the rest of the country

  3. Pingback: ysmarko

  4. For nearly 30 years through years of service as a youth pastor and now as a greying “senior pastor” I have been sharing my deep concern that what is at risk in the culture is “true” or what I like to call “deep” community. The culture in general is fractured into a 1,000 pieces. The youth culture clearly reflects that reality. Most folks cannot seem to get a handle on the “big picture” of what’s really happening to them in the rapidly changing world. Their response to to focus on a piece of their experience that meets a need or simply distracts them from the reality of their stress filled and often hurtful everyday experience. The best “community” is often nothing more than an interest enclave where the members of the group share a passion for a Star Trek, rap music rock climbing, etc. The result is increased isolation from the whole and deepening separation. High tech communications and the emerging power of multi-national corporation readily detached from the reality of the people connected to their services make the experience of “true community” how ever defined increasingly difficult. In the world of an old
    Gospel song, “If ever we needed the Lord before, we sure do need him now.”

  5. I’m not sure that Programs=Never is any better than Programs=Always. A simplistic 1.0 2.0 3.0 approach — comparing teens to software implies that if we just ‘push the right buttons’ we’ll get the right result.

    God wants us to faithfully sow and water the seed. But He alone can make it grow. It’s not gonna grow just because we ‘figured out the right formula’ whether that is “Programs” or “No Programs” or “X/Y Programs/No Programs Ratio”.

  6. Pingback: Conversations on the Rebirth of Youth Ministry | Being Ministry

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