u t h p s t r
in His grip, thankfully!

pulling back the curtain • part three


finding our way forward with students and their families is going to take knowing the cultural landscape, understanding our theological “rocks” that are non-negotiable and then making intelligent choices based on those two things.

the cultural landscape of students
these points are based on the research of chap clark in his book “hurt”

we may have been 15 but we were never 15 in their world…

  • hurt
    • broken hearted and wondering if they matter because the needs and wants of parents and adults have taken a number one place. just look a the instances of divorce and adult infidelity and how they are mirrored in the teen sexual statistics and pregnancies
  • abandoned
    • or most they don’t know how to get to adulthood and have no one from adulthood showing them the way. we’ve not taken our covenantal vows at baptism seriously
  • removed from families and agents of maturity
    • picture it as a one eared mickey mouse with students being the ear that is loosely attached to the rest of the head. youth ministry, sports, school environment and many of their other associations remove them from much time with those who would have maturing influences on them, namely adults.
  • performance expectations are at an all time high
    • “what about your future?” is a huge concern for them as well as a desire from the adult world for excellence in all that they do • putting together a resume for college and beyond weighs on their minds as well as a future career and job at a very early age • athletics, vocal and instrumental music • drama • jobs • clubs • youth ministry • extra-curricular activities
  • hurried and busy
    • because of everything above plus their own interests and the families varying commitments • when do they have time just to be a kid anymore?
  • constant change
    • culture and youth culture NEVER stand still • conforming to the “new and the cool” is always changing and adds another level of pressure and need for money as well
  • isolated compartments
    • how i interact with you and with my friends and my parents and my youth leaders and my teacher and at my job are all different. what is acceptable around one group may not be around another group, but they don’t see much if any inconsistency when who you are in all those groups are different
  • going underground for protection
    • you’ll never know the world below the surface that i actually live in and where the me real me can only come out because it’s safe there. i have to go underground because it seems like everyone else wants something from me or expects me to perform
  • increasing length of adolescence
    • adolescence is growing longer because of the dropping age when puberty hits [the beginning of adolescence] as well and the increasing age when a transition to full adulthood commences.
    • this has typically stretched now from 11 or 12 to the late 20’s.
  • clusters over families
    • these are the people in my world below that i huddle with for protection and who tell me i’m alright because i’m not getting told that anyplace else.

theological rocks • what matters from God’s point of view

  • incarnation of Christ
    • Christ was pointing to God in his ministry • Christ with us and our lives with each other should see the Christ among us and lead us to live like Christ with each other • it’s a ministry of presence and going to people: relational
  • prayer, scripture and worship
    • to become mature in Christ we must have relationship with Christ [both individual and communal] and this comes from time with Christ in prayer, scripture and worship. these have been fundamentals for thousands of years and need to be again.
  • character of Christ
    • we must remember the person and character of the one we follow: Jesus Christ and model ourselves on him • these include… justice • love • mercy • grace • hope • restoration • truth
  • power and truth of God’s word
    • beyond reading and knowing God’s word we must also help student and adults understand that it is ultimate truth. not just another way, but the way. there is so much teaching of tolerance of ideas and religions that God’s word becomes just another possibility to many kids today • all this must be done with grace
  • family • covenant • community
    • where and how are families passing on the faith, taking the time for prayer, scripture and worship and making sure that the spiritual care and nurture of their children are their priority and their responsibility. it isn’t up the christian education or youth ministry to lead but to support, resource and encourage
    • each child is a child of God and they belong in the body of Christ with all generations of his people • all redeemed and bought with a price together in community as God’s people working and building God’s kingdom
  • sin • salvation • service
    • these go together in progression and should also go together in community. we’ve made so much of personal, individual salvation as a goal and ignored much of the communal and ongoing work of salvation
  • worldview and kingdom
    • it’s not only knowing right answers but forming them into a way to look, live and interact with the world and those in it • it’s helping us all to see how everything comes together, that the world belongs to God and that we are asked to take an active role in God’s redemption of the world

question: what else is there from our faith that should be theological rocks?

our responses and questions

if we start to take the difficult reality of the world of students and connect them to the theological rocks that will make a difference, we then come up with responses and actions that help us live these truths out in our relationships with students as they navigate the issues of their world

  • showing unconditional love and gracious accountability
    • they need to know they all matter regardless of their ability to perform or live up to high expectations. when they miss the mark we need to love them anyhow and show them the better way
  • how do we mobilize the church towards kids?
  • how do we revive our covenantal responsibilities?
    • seeing them
    • knowing what kids are here at church and in our neighborhood, knowing who they are and their names and what is going on in their lives
  • reconnecting them to church [God’s people] with opportunities and relationship
    • they need the chance to grow in responsibly and worth SIDE BY SIDE with adults. it’s not kids filling up jobs that the adults won’t do. it’s having the rub shoulders with adults as partners in the congregation
    • options to serve
    • leadership chances • they are NOT the church of tomorrow, they are part of the covenant today!
    • as they connect they will get to know and be side by side with adults who will be investing and mentoring them. it’s about adding those who are mature to students lives
  • ministry to parents
    • giving them tools and encouragement to be aware of the culture
    • preparing them for upcoming stages of adolescence and encourage them to continue talking to their children
  • people in the church must be in long term relationships with our students
    • we must know these kids and be honestly interested in them over the long haul
  • shifting to youth groups [clusters] from youth group [big group]
    • each time we find an adult willing to work with students they should be connected with a cluster of students as their youth “pastor” and see it as their youth group

question: what else are some solutions and ways forward?

we have two different groups that all of these issues must be played out with…

• children in and from the church
• children in the community at the anchor

both have their own dynamics, issues and needs but both may have as much ignorance in real faith in Jesus Christ, what maturity means, people to model it and show them the way!

strategic issues in youth ministry for the next 20 years

• brainstorming from doctor of ministry class

  • personal identity
    • increased ambiguity in identity
    • multiple selves in multiple domains
    • sexuality and orientation
    • adolescence expanding, prolonging
    • virtual life, media impact, cyber-community
  • family
    • rise in the priority of family
    • time with kids
    • redefine families [everyone will have to grapple with this]
    • family taking precedence
    • gender roles
  • church
    • secularization of church
    • marginalized [not having the clout and respect]
    • what church looks like will look different
    • new structures
  • interpersonal relationships
    • race and culture
    • sexual orientation
    • pastor and parishioners
    • youth to adult
    • stunted interpersonal growth because of the loss of face to face relationships
  • health
    • aids
    • environmental issues
    • sexuality: experimenting, pressure and media
    • mental health: more depression and more stress
  • [the church’s] relevance
    • critiquing models and methods that are necessary and effective
    • the effect of the declining church membership and denominationalism
    • professional youth ministry [who are we going to be as a professional? youth ministry is always a second tier leadership and affecting change that way]
    • the voice and relevance of the church to society and culture
  • cultural values
    • consumerism
    • sexuality [we need to have discussions about and responses to this area]
    • prioritizing time based on values [media, school, entertainment, recreation, work, discipleship, church, etc.] how are you using your time as a disciple
    • developing authentic community [healthy church, youth group and neighbors]
  • social order
    • appeal of neo-radicalism in response to other philosophies and theologies [radical islam, etc]
    • globalization and accessibility [the world is flat idea, how people see the world, their place in the world and how they fit]
    • old structures versus new cultures [how we do church, life, higher education, competition] have our old structures caught up or can catch up or is there a need for everything new.
    • changes are happening in the developmental process in students and how will we respond accordingly in our programs and relationships
    • effects of the broken family on the individual families and children and adolescence
    • networking churches and para-churches. how do we start becoming a big “C” church in the community and mutually support each other?
    • demographic
      • effects of an aging demographic along with declining birth rate
      • changing cultural and racial demographics
    • addressing institutions responses to the change [institutions: churches, businesses, schools, organizations]
      • how do we [the church] understand that and how do we help them understand and respond.
    • effects of broken family on the individual families and children and adolescence
    • cultural dissatisfaction of roles [from kids to parents they are dissatisfied with their current roles and trying to change them]
  • economics
    • widening gap between rich and poor and how do we address it as a church and society?
    • will race or class be the dividing line in the future?
  • church leadership change
    • requires a major paradigm shift because of the issues and the kind of ministry that is coming down the road
      • we were trained to do ministry in seminary, but we were not trained to train others to do ministry so we are all off balance.
    • requires a major shift in the way our institutions train vocational ministers
    • “if you want them to bleed, you have to hemorrhage.” howard hendricks we have to give it our all, over the top if we want people to understand what we are getting at. we are already behind
  • reclaiming true community [the kid – bruce willis]
    • will fight against “rugged individualism”, pseudo community, virtual community
    • only the church can truly provide this as the world offers a façade
    • this step will be vital in addressing abandonment issues
      • aside: in an asian [confucian] culture there is the idea of community before self. a possible illustration is “the last samurai”
  • addressing the changing family
    • there will be more singles, people of the opposite sex living together, more one-parent families, time for childbearing will be shortened, longer empty nests, more older adults
    • sexual orientation
    • economics
    • stress
    • busyness
  • integration of faith and life
    • replacing a consumer mindset with contributor mindset
    • the development of a missional lifestyle
    • incarnational ministry
  • equipping the saints
    • “mending or preparing the nets”
    • fulfillment of ephesians 4 “equipping”
    • “it takes a village“ hillary clinton

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