Sunday, June 8, 2008

Post-Evangelical Youth Ministry

I really like reading the Internet Monk's (AKA Michael Spencer) observations regarding the modern church. This week he was asked to describe a typical post-evangelical youth group, and here's his intriguing response:

So while I cannot describe a post-evangelical youth ministry, I can suggest some aspects to what a post-evangelical Christian community might determine in regard to its missional ministry to its own young people.

1. It would be very open to the “Family centered” model that puts youth ministry firmly in the ministry of parents, and would utilize “youth ministers” only as a supplement and facilitation of that model.

2. It would never separate young people from the multi-generational nature of the church, but would instill in them an appreciation for the Christian tradition, and the compromises and gifts of the multi-generational model.

3. Age segregated Bible study would most likely be de-emphasized, if not eliminated as much as possible.

4. Mentoring and “AA” type community would be the focus of community life, with a conscious effort to work against the consumerist impulses of evangelical youth culture.

5. One important emphasis would be participation in broader community ministries and worship opportunities that would emphasize being part of the larger body of Christ, including all traditions.

6. Relationships and ministries with the church among the poor and the persecuted would replace the creation of envy of megachurch facilities and a menu of specialized large events.

7. A conscious effort to define discipleship in terms of teachable processes will bring about an investment of time and relationships in learning specific disciplines from particular people, and then passing those discipleship processes on to other young people.

8. The heart of post-evangelical youth ministry would be the church’s own growth process into a community discovering the church as the movement Jesus started, imitating the best models of the past and connecting to other traditions.

9. This does not mean the elimination of “youth ministry,” but it does mean that any specific ministry will find its definition and direction from the overall character of the community to which it belongs. Whatever activities, actions or processes occur, they will be evaluated by the whole community and not by separate standards derived from “youth ministry” as a self-defining parachurch movement.

Obviously there is lot more to be said, but this does get at some of my current thoughts. A very good question. Thanks for asking.

I really appreciate his thoughts here. I've always wondered a bit about segregating the different ages in our evangelical church. I understand having the younger kids (babies, toddlers, preschoolers) in separate classes, yet I also very much enjoy having the entire family together for worship. There's no rule that says we can't keep our entire family together, but our former pastor disliked fussing children so much that he actually broke out of his sermons at times to ask mothers to remove their children. Our current pastor is much more mellow, but having the entire family together is not done often, and we've simply followed everyone else's lead and put our children in their little classes while we go off to "worship." In the past year or more, the children in grades 1 to 5 come upstairs to worship (our sanctuary is above our fellowship hall) but they leave before the pastor's sermon and never stay for Communion. They also all sit at the very front of the church under the watchful eye of an adult leader or two, not with their families. Again, we could tell B to come back and sit with us for singing and prayer, but it's not the norm.

On the other hand, the Catholic and Anglican mode (and also other liturgical churches, I'm sure) is to keep all of the children, even the littles, sitting with their families during the entire church service. They get to sing, hear the sermon (which is usually 15-20 minutes verses the 30-45 minutes at Lake Murray, typical of most evangelical churches), and can also take part in Communion by receiving a blessing rather than having Communion until they've prepared for such. Babies and toddlers are carried up from by parents as the congregation lines up for Communion, and all take part. No, it's not quite as relaxing as leaving them in a nursery or preschool class, but it's certainly much more unifying to have the whole family together during the entire service.

In our family, J, entering sixth grade in the fall, has been moved up to the junior high class and thereby joins us for the entire worship service second hour. T doesn't care for the worship service so he serves during the second church hour after attending his Sunday School class first hour; he really enjoys helping the Kindergarten class each Sunday, and the teachers have come to depend upon his assistance.

Back to Michael's comments: I'd really like to see a shift away from segregated classes and more of a push toward family services, along with some of the other suggestions/visions he has for Sunday School in the future. We'll have to see, won't we????

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