Some more thoughts from my post last week:
- Parachurch ministries are not enough. Youth ministry organizations that are not a part of an established church (Young Life, Youth for Christ, etc.) cannot expect to be able to fully nurture faith in adolescents. Though most of them state the goal that they try to connect their teens to a local church, this study highlights the imperative to do so.
- Maybe “youth group” needs to focus towards those whose parents are not involved in their faith. As I said before, there is hope for youth whose parents are not actively supporting their faith development as long as the youth can go beyond youth group and get involved in the life of the wider congregation. If the parents are distant that leaves only the congregational and age-specific spheres. Perhaps then youth ministries should focus more on helping youth whose parents are distant. This could cause conflict with those parents who are active and think that the youth ministry should be tailored to their kids, but the research suggests otherwise. Obviously, we should be doing all we can to help parents get involved in the lives of their kids, but there are simply times when that is not the case. And when that is true, youth ministry and the church are the only spheres where they will be able to develop faith.
- I wonder what implications there are for teens who do not attend church with their parents, but go to another church’s youth group. Assuming that the parents are reinforcing and nurturing faith development in the home, I wonder what the effects are when those faithful parents and their children do not attend the same church. Teenagers love to be with their friends, and when most of their friends go to a different church there is a huge pull for a youth to join them. It would be interested to see how that dynamic plays into this three spheres model.
Luther Seminary continues to put out quality research related to youth ministry. I got to participate in one of the webinars they have just developed to make this research accessible to the average church leader called the Exemplary Youth Ministry Online Seminar. In this one-hour seminar they go over the basics of the Exemplary Youth Ministry Study, which you should be familiar with if you are not already. This study sought to identify key markers and assets in congregations who nurture long-term faith in the lives of their young people.
One of the insights that was brought up during this seminar is that significant faith is developed in three different spheres: the home, the congregation, and age-specific ministry. And here’s the kicker: “Activity in two of the three Spheres results in the development of a ‘Sweet Spot’ promoting greater levels of faith maturity.” And, obviously, activity within all three of the spheres would promote high levels of faith maturity as well.
What doe all this mean? Here’s a few of the implications that I have been thinking through:
- “Youth Group” is not enough by itself. Without nurturing faith in the home or participation in the congregation, trying to disciple teens only within the age-specific sphere is an uphill battle. I wonder how many youth ministries need to rewrite and rethink their mission statements. How many youth ministries try to facilitate all of the necessary programs to disciple a young person using only age-specific ministry? To say that an age-specific youth ministry will do something like “produce lifelong disciples of Christ” (or something to that effect) without also taking into account the life at home and contributing to the life of the congregation is short-sighted.
- Teenagers can have a growing, vibrant faith without participating in the “youth ministry.” If a teen has an active faith life in the home and is active within the congregation-at-large, they may never set foot in Sunday school or go on a youth mission trip, but still have a growing faith. We need not think that every teenager in a congregation must be involved in youth group to help them grow in faith.
- There is hope for youth who come from families whose parents are not nurturing faith in the home. Sometimes grandma will bring a child to church, or a teen brings a friend with them and the friend starts to get involved, but the parents of these youth might not be reinforcing anything at home. In these cases, the age specific ministry combined with activity in the wider congregation can still help to nurture mature faith in teenagers.
- We still need the “one-earned Mickey Mouse,” to an extent. After my recent post about the value, at times, of the old one-eared Mickey Mouse model this research seems to suggest that there is still a place for getting teenagers ministering specifically with people in their age range. Obviously, it is not enough by itself, and one person cannot do it by him- or herself, but it is still a vital component of youth ministry that should be kept intact.
What do you think? Does this “Three Spheres” model play out in your experience? Are there other insights to be gleaned from this? [Update: Yes, there are more insights... check out this post]
I received the following as an email from my seminary and thought I would pass along the information to those who might be interested. The Exemplary Youth Ministry Study is a pretty ground-breaking study in the field of youth ministry. If you are a full-time youth worker and unfamiliar with this study, this might be a good place to start. I also noticed on their website that they are willing to do private seminars for your whole youth ministry team if you want; contact them for more information on that if you are interested.
Exemplary Youth Ministry
Learn in an Online Seminar!
Now you can learn from the results of a ground-breaking study in youth ministry, and hear the personal stories of the congregational leaders involved. The study was led by Roland Martinson, academic dean and Carrie Olson Baalson professor of Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary.
At the Exemplary Youth Ministry seminar you will:
- discover how all congregations can be places where the faith of young people is nurtured to maturity.
- be exposed to the key aspects of a mature Christian faith.
- discover defined assets of congregational youth ministry.
- learn about the role of leadership in creating a culture for developing mature Christian young people.
- be able to engage and focus your congregation’s mission.
- learn the framework for Youth Ministry that your Luther student is learning.
Attend Exemplary Youth Ministry from your home or church. All you need is a broadband Internet connection and a phone. Pastors, youth ministers and youth ministry teams are encouraged to attend. Or contact us to set up a seminar exclusively for your congregation’s youth ministry team. Exemplary Youth Ministry is presented by the Luther Seminary Center for Children, Youth and Family Ministry Team at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.
Registration is limited to six people per session, so sign up for one of these sessions today!
May 5, May 12, May 19 or May 28 at 1-2 p.m. Central Time
May 7, May 14 or May 28 at 10-11 a.m. Central Time
Cost: $39 ($20 for Luther Seminary students)
Three easy ways to register!
Phone: [hidden] Email me if you want it
Email: [hidden] Email me if you want it