- Neo-Youth Ministry Series Introduction
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 1: “Youth”
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 2: “Ministry”
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 3: The Youth Minister
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 4: The Youth Minister as Theologian
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 5: The Youth Minister as Pastor
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 6: Youth Minister as Spiritual Director
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 7: The Youth Minister as Prophet
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 8: The Youth Minister as Youth Advocate
- Neo-Youth Ministry Part 9: The Youth Minister as Interpreter and Synthesizer
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: Education and Teaching
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: The End of Bait and Switch
- Neo-Youth Ministry Methods: Local and Contextual
A Neo-Youth Minister must be an advocate for adolescents to the adults with which he or she interacts. Perhaps one of the reasons why youth ministry (not to mention youth ministers) has such a hard time dealing with the expectations of congregations, parents, and other church leadership is that they do not understand the nature of the (adolescent) beast. Many believe young people want to be isolated into their own peer groups, they need fluffy and entertaining activities, and the busier they are the less likely they will get into “trouble”. In order to counter these misconceptions, Neo-Youth Ministers need to:
- Speak well of his or her young people. The passion of youth gives them the ability to do amazing things. These acts of amazement can inspire horror (through things like terrorism) or delight. A young person will have the courage to do something whether it has ever been done before or not. This inherent risk-taking will often produce awe-inspiring stories of faith, depth, and altruism. By telling adults of these things they will learn that youth are not always concerned only with whatever is on YouTube or the Billboard Top 40. We must show them that the young people in our congregations are often our most untapped resource. As we are called to be prophets and imagine a youth ministry we have not yet been able to imagine, so might our young people be the prophetic catalysts for change in our churches.
- Provide opportunities for young people to do “adult” things. Rather than relegating youth to the youth room, youth band, or youth Sunday, youth should have the opportunity to serve the body of Christ just like the adults. Whether that is playing in the band on Sunday mornings, reading scripture, or going on “adult” retreats and trips, we should extend the invitation to all in our congregation, not just those who are married with children.
- Integrate young people with the rest of the congregation. This is a little different than above in that this might occur intentionally (like adult vs. youth dodgeball) or by heavily incorporating adults in youth events, activities, or programs. This last weekend, we took seven kids on our Confirmation Retreat. We could have easily gotten by practically with only two adults. But discipling young people is not about practicality. So, we took five adults. And honestly, I don’t feel like we had too many or that some of our adults were just twiddling their thumbs. Connections were made, relationships cultivated, and conversations were had. You can never involve too many adults in your events.
- Fight for their youth to be more than sentimental figures or cheap labor. Too often youth are either put on a sentimental parade (“Youth Sunday” or the Sunday after the annual mission trip when they share for 30 seconds about this supposedly life-changing experience) or they are only called upon by the congregation to do things that no one else wants to do (“hey, we need some chairs moved for…”). We must fight this inclination by saying no. I told our pastor that we would not give a “report” to the congregation the Sunday after our mission trip because there wasn’t enough time to convey the depth of our experience. Those who were interested could come to our Mission Trip Lunch that we were hosting that allowed us to have an hour and a half to tell stories and reflect on this year’s mission trip experience. I’m having trouble figuring out how to get around being the cheap labor for the church without sounding selfish and spoiled (because many of our adults give a lot in terms of time and money to the youth ministry and I like doing things for them in return), but some sort of criteria needs to be set.
A lot of this isn’t very new (or “Neo”); many youth ministers are already doing much of this. But I believe this will be a necessary aspect, along with the many others, of a Neo-Youth Minister. As those called to be with and know our teenagers, we have a responsibility to spread the proper perception of our students in our congregations. We cannot sit idly by while the majority of our congregations misunderstand and misuse the teenagers in their midst. We must be advocates of those whom we are called to pastor.