by Jean Lehn Epp, Interim Coordinator of Youth Ministry Resources - Ministry focused solely on adolescents is relatively new to the history of the church. Groups from outside the church influenced what became a movement of age specific ministry within the church in North America. We are experiencing change again as many churches encounter declining numbers of youth and children. It is terrifying to think of the future of the church as this demographic disengages from church life. How can we imagine a future for the church when it is difficult to maintain youth programs or gather a critical mass for Sunday School? Does it feel like we are giving up?
Jumping on the next new model for ministry with youth or implementing programing from the closest “successful” church we know, will not be enough to fix what our churches are experiencing. When we look at what we do with youth as ministry instead of programing, it frees us to see all the different ways we can integrate youth into the life of the church. When we shift from viewing youth as consumers of what we think they should be getting to participants in ministry where they creatively engage in their own church and community, wonderful things can happen.
Things to consider as you engage in ministry with youth:
- Be intentional and authentic about who you are as a church, what you believe and what gifts your church community has to offer
- Creatively engage the Bible, all of the Bible, including the challenging and difficult parts
- Actively share how God is at work in your life
- Let go of expectations that everything you try will work, try something new and if it doesn’t seem effective find out why and adapt
- View everything you do with youth as ministry by asking:
- How is this helping youth discover who they are?
- How is this building up their relationship with God?
- How is this growing a sense of belonging within the church community?
- How is this connecting youth to community outside of their immediate relational circle?
- How is this encouraging youth to discover their own sense of ministry?
- Listen to this interview with Dr. Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean as she shares some of her observations on the future of youth ministry. She shares some creative ideas on integrating church and community while youth discover ministry for themselves.
- Books that you can sign out from MCEC resource centre:
- Youth Ministry at a Crossroads: Tending to the faith formation of Mennonite youth. Authors: Andy Brubacher Kaethler; Bob Yoder. Herald Press, 2011.
- Starting Right: Thinking Theologically About Youth Ministry. Authors: Kenda Creasy Dean; Chap Clark; Dave Rahn.
- Preview of the book Reaching a New Generation: Strategies for Tomorrow’s Church by Alan J. Roxburgh has some interesting insights on the challenges churches face on speaking to our current culture and thoughts about how to engage the faith of a new generation.