Effective Youth Ministry will work with the desired end result in mind. This sounds very intuitive and one might wonder who could possibly disagree with such a notion. The truth is, that most of us would...if not with our words, then in practice.
There is an extraordinary temptation in professional youth ministry to cater to the pressures of the moment and the perceived needs of those we work with (parents included). These pressures combined with our culture's pervasive consumerism subtly but surely lures us towards an "attractional" model of youth ministry. We build youth ministry around events...events that will draw a crowd...events that center around the dynamic personality of our youth minister...events with lots of bells and whistles...events that serve as exciting and interesting alternatives to what "the world" is offering. This is precisely our downfall. We instill a version of "faith" that is dependent on the constant flow of these activities, events, personalities, "bells" and "whistles". In short, it is unsustainable by its very nature. It isn't true to the complexities of life. It doesn't prepare them for the isolation they may face or the painful questions they WILL face. It doesn't challenge them to be more than they are, or call them to something greater than themselves. Instead, it markets one more product (albeit a religious product) for them to consume. Of course it fails for the vast majority of them when they graduate and the personality (youth minister) of the is gone, the activities/programs are gone, and they are left with "just church".
What would it look like to develop intentional ways of cultivating a sustainable faith? How can we design approaches that begin with such an end in mind? I have some ideas and opinions about what that could look like, but they would be limited to my context and experience. These questions are yours to answer, but I'll argue that if you are going to "do" youth ministry, they are questions you must wrestle with if your ministry is to be in any sense "effective".
(to be continued)