Spring Series…Shifting approaches in Youth Ministry


Over the next few months, I am attempting to offer some “shifts” in the way youth ministry can be done. Some will be practical approaches and tangible changes, while others border the philosophical and theological realm of student ministry.

The main idea is that we need to shift away from certain modes of thought and operation (such as being program driven, attraction oriented, exclusive, isolated, big, hierarchical, etc…) and move towards new ways. Read A New Kind of Youth Ministry by Chris Folsmbee for a good philosophical transitionally approach.

I will try to discuss practical applications and implications of such transitions in an actual youth ministry setting.

Many of these appear to be in direct contrast to former ideas, and some are clearly and intentionally just that. I believe there to be potential danger in living fully on one side or the other. Therefore, what I propose is a shift away from one and towards the other, hopefully arriving at a middle ground that leaves the doors of communication open on both ends.

Some of the “shifts” I will be proposing will be:

From Missions to Missional

From Narrow to Generous theology

From Big to Small

From Sacred to Secular

From Centralized to De-Centralized

From Separatists to Collaborators/Partners

From Exclusive to Inclusive

From Big to Small

From Agenda-Driven to Presence Focused

From Conversions to Conversations

From Spiritual Knowledge to Spiritual Formation

From Church to Neutral “Third” Places

From Facts to Experience/Encounter

From Apologetics to Storytelling

From Witnessing to Loving

From Orthodoxy to Orthopraxy

From Evangelical to Emergent

I am going to number these shifts, but there is no particular order. I am not saying that Shift #1 is more or less important than Shift #10.  

Also, I am hoping for comments and ideas on how you have worked out some of these shifts in your own ministry. I have some examples but would prefer to post your thoughts on the practical application and implication of these shifts. 




One thought on “Spring Series…Shifting approaches in Youth Ministry

  1. Hey Dan, I think if we were to sit down and talk about these things in person, we would agree on most areas. I am sure you will elaborate in future posts, but I get a puzzled look at shifts of:
    From Exclusive to Inclusive (i.e. isn’t Christ eventually going to lead people to an exclusive decision?) I agree that we need to open our hearts, minds and door, but a choice will eventually be made.
    From Narrow to Generous theology/From Orthodoxy to Orthopraxy…I think I know where you are on this (especially the narrow theology) but doesn’t Paul tell Timothy to watch his life and DOCTRINE closely (1 Tim 4:16). I am a firm believer that our Theology and Orthodoxy (more so theology based on the Bible) are the foundation for Orthopraxy.
    From Sacred to Secular…since when can’t the secular become sacred when it is done in the name of Jesus?
    Lastly, I can’t continue because I could do this with almost all of the areas. I am intrigued to hear your thoughts, but I also am hoping that the Gospel of Christ saving people and placing them in what is going on in history is not lost. God is writing a story and we are not only characters but the pen strokes. We can not lose the offensive message of the Cross, because it is foolishness to those who are perishing. We must seek those who are perishing so that God can turn the Cross from foolishness to foolproof.
    As a blog(http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1772_5_Foundations_of_a_Truthdrenched_Youth_Ministry/) I read stated:
    “The main thing your youth should think about when they remember you is how you spoke God’s word to them.”
    “Don’t replace teaching truth with games, media, skits, etc. ”

    Our focus is not philosophy but Gospel Truth.

    Again, understand I know you will elaborate and you want a middle ground so I am interested to see your thoughts develop.

    Stay tuned Mike and I think you will be pleased with the answers. Just a heads up, most of these proposed shifts attempt to focus on the middle ground. I believe there is danger in living on either side.
    I hope to hear from you in the weeks to come regarding each shift

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