If you are involved in youth ministry, by this I mean working with young people by means of the church context, then how would you describe your ministry?
In this book, Mark Senter (ed) draws alongside three other highly experienced individuals from the field of youth ministry (Wesley Black, Malan Nel & Chap Clark) from across the world, to present four different views of the purpose of youth ministry. Each view is formed by whether the emphasis is on building leaders in the church (fellowship) or evangelism (mission) and whether it is for the purposes of the here and now or for the future. The four views that they refer to are summarised as follows:
• Fellowship now (Inclusive Congregational Approach)
Focusses on how we can be more inclusive of young people within the practices of the church in order that they are not merely an add-on, but that they are an integral part of the church body.
• Mission now (The Missional Approach)
Using responsible evangelism to disciple young people into church.
• Fellowship in the future (The Preparatory Approach)
This is an approach by which we are discipling and training our young people into being the leaders of the Church in the future and giving them foretastes of this now (e.g. youth-led services).
• Mission in the future (The Strategic Approach)
This view sees the youth group as an offshoot of the church that itself could become a church plant.
Whilst I would argue that these four views are not comprehensive and that each one is a caricature of a particular approach, there may still be some value in considering whether our youth ministry is closer to one or other of these approaches and indeed whether that is also the view of the church leadership. If we have been taking a preparatory approach and providing young people with more opportunities to lead, but they are not getting such opportunities in Church services, then this could be a source of frustration. Likewise, if our ministry is focussed upon the strategic approach and creating a new ministry, but the church’s emphasis is on an inclusive congregational approach, then there clearly needs to be a conversation about expectations.
One of the biggest issues that I see in relation to youth ministry is that the Church leadership and those involved in youth ministry do not spend time discussing their expectation. If we do not discuss these expectations and the merits of different approaches then we end up seeing frustrated congregations, youth ministers and young people.
Vice Principal Scottish School of Christian Mission