Monday, June 13, 2005

The fracturing effect of youth ministry

Cerulean Sanctum's Dan Edelen looks back at the Industrial Revolution and its effects on the church, particularly in youth ministry. His conclusions are not cheery:

Youth ministry's long-term effect has been to take a family already fractured by societal changes caused by business practices coined during the Industrial Revolution and fracture it even further. While there is no doubt that on a granular level youth ministry has been effective in the lives of individuals (I include myself here), studies by researchers like George Barna have shown that, on the whole, the net effect of youth ministry today has been negligible on the spiritual and emotional welfare of youth. . . . We must consider whether the youth ministry model that was initially developed more than a hundred and sixty years ago is still valid.

The problems of youth ministry are compounded by the fact that it eventually sought to distance itself from conventional, whole-family ministry. In its infancy, youth ministry attempted to make the best of a bad situation in the lives of youth living far from home, but this is no longer the case. Most youth ministries in churches today appear to pride themselves on the fact they offer teens a chance to get away from their families and hang out with other teens. The net effect here has been that the typical youth minister has become the substitute parent for many teens. Since youth ministry tends to have its own separate teaching component, the incidental effect has been that parents have abdicated the Christian teaching role for their teens. This further alienates family members and leads to a loss of parental authority and respect.

Wow. Those are pretty strong assertions. Whether or not youth ministry is a worthwhile effort depends on a variety of factors; Dan has brought to light issues that, as far as I know, aren't being given a lot of thought in the church at large. What do you think?


Blogger Dan Edelen said...

Milton, thanks for the link.

I may go back to this issue at a later date and explore alternate ways of ministering to youth. One of my pet theories for the last twenty years is that the youth minister's true job is to teach parents how to effectively instruct their own children in the Lord. In short, a good youth would work with the parents more than their kids.

How's that for a paradigm shift?

1:02 AM, June 14, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

It's big, but I think it's absolutely right. The challenge is convincing congregations and youth ministers who really are doing some good works in the current paradigm that the other is better.

5:46 AM, June 14, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as the new language emerges, a new algorithm is needed, more information more feeling, what's up with this music the kids are singing now adays?
that's not the what my grandpa listened to? Every Father a Priest, Every Priest a SongLeader,Worship Leader. Participant parents probably change the channel with Ginuwine, and Usher girating in the boombox. Barnas got it right about moving into the creative arts, attacking the beast on all fronts. All those songs from the eighties need reworking Jericho, Davidic, Song of Solomon, style. Black guys help the white guys. tim mcgraw and nelly seem to get along. living like they are making it over and over again. listen to what the little birds are singing. Jack-Jack, Mr. Incredible.

5:38 PM, June 19, 2005  

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