- Neo-Youth Ministry Series Introduction
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 1: “Youth”
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 2: “Ministry”
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 3: The Youth Minister
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 4: The Youth Minister as Theologian
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 5: The Youth Minister as Pastor
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 6: Youth Minister as Spiritual Director
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 7: The Youth Minister as Prophet
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 8: The Youth Minister as Youth Advocate
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 9: The Youth Minister as Interpreter and Synthesizer
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: Education and Teaching
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: The End of Bait and Switch
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: Local and Contextual
In order to begin to re-think what it might mean to do youth ministry, to formulate a Neo-Youth Ministry, we should probably start out by coming to grips with the term “youth ministry”. To begin, I’ll be examining the word “youth”.
“Youth”, as it is defined in most church ministry contexts refers to students in middle school (sometimes known as junior high) and high school. Depending on where you are in the country, this includes sixth or seventh grade students through twelfth grade students.
An initial observation of this term brings to light that this kind of ministry is extremely narrow in scope. Even if we grant the broadest possible definition of “youth” (sixth through twelfth grade), we are still only talking about seven years of a person’s life. Before sixth grade, the person is in a children’s ministry for eleven or so years. After graduating high school, the typical person has another sixty-two years of life left.
With such a definition of the term youth, youth ministry is by its very nature a highly focused effort because of the narrowness of its scope, encompassing only 9% or so of the average person’s life. Yet, chances are that more money is spent in a church on this particular ministry than any other.
Secondly, drawing from above, when we say “youth” we need to begin to think about adolescents, regardless of age. We have usually defined our ministry boundaries according to cultural standards (6th-12th grade), which leaves students out to dry once they graduate. The statistics to show what sort of impact “youth ministry” has on high school graduates are abundant. And embarrassing.
We need to consider how it is we serve adolescents, understanding that the adolescent life-stage is lengthening on both sides. Children are entering adolescence (both physically and sociologically) in the tween years and adolescence often extends through college graduation. If we don’t think of adolescents when we say the word “youth”, our ministries will end up being short-sided, which seems to be the current state of youth ministry.
A Neo-Youth Ministry begins by realizing that when we speak of ministry with “youth”, we must keep in mind the big picture and strive to disciple adolescents all the way into and through adulthood.