For my doctoral program I am working on a project to think through the scriptural foundations how we view youth, evaluating the last 150 years of youth ministry development and discussing how the church should function in its ministry to youth.
Essentially the major question to me that youth ministry philosophy must answer is: what is your plan for how youth will integrate into the body of Christ? Texts like 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 and John 17:20-26 require this to be a sincere goal.
In fact, I think this might be the critical issue of our day because often youth graduate from high school and we go to their graduation parties, but then what? We have not helped them during their teen years to truly prepare for life beyond youth group in the church. How shall we help them to be ready for the next step of the journey–belong to the body of Christ. Various schools of thought are advancing alternate views.
Typical Youth Ministry
Typical youth ministry serves youth directly with a youth pastor and a team of youth sponsors focusing on helping them to become disciples in the midst of their youth culture. However, typical youth ministry does not have any established process of pathways for youth to become integrated into the life of the church. If it happens it’s random or exceptional or unconnected from the youth ministry philosophy. In other words: “integration of youth, huh?”
Family Integrated Approach
The Family Integrated approach on the other hand demands universal and comprehensive integration as the exclusive approach advanced by their interpretation of the bible. In other words, “youth group, what’s that?” This approach might be called, integrate NOW!
Strategic Integration Youth Ministry
The path I would like to pursue seeks some of the goals of family integration without entirely dropping all of the means of youth ministry as we know it. What if an explicit goal of youth ministry was not only to develop the character and maturity of our youth, but also to create processes through which youth were mentored, connected and involved in the body of Christ? What if upon graduation, they already felt like they were meaningfully connected to a church where they were already members and welcomed?
What do you think?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Whether you are a student, a parent, a youth pastor or just interested in this conversation.
- How do you think the church ought to approach ministry to youth?
- Do we need to abolish youth groups like the Family Integrated propounds?
- Can we meaningfully integrate students now? If so, how? I’m all ears…