- 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
Flowing out of all of the other roles of a Neo-Youth Minister (especially theologian, pastor, prophet, and spiritual director), a Neo-Youth Minister must be an interpreter. By this, I mean that the youth minister must be skilled in interpreting the following realms:
- Culture. A Neo-Youth Minister must be able to make sense and extract meaning out of the cultural phenomenon that drive society forward at such a rapid rate. Interpretation is needed in the following cultural areas:
- Technology. What is the prevalence of the iPod doing to our kid’s awareness of the world around them? How does social networking effect students’ ability to have a conversation? How does Wikipedia impact study habits? I am a firm believer that use of technology is not spiritually neutral. We must interpret the effects of the various technologies in our lives and the lives of our students.
- Magazines. This probably lies more in the realm of females than males (since teenage boys pretty much don’t read anything longer than a box score). But, what are magazines like People and Cosmopolitan doing to influence our teenagers? What behaviors are they normalizing? What behaviors are they undermining?
- Books (or lack thereof). What does the abysmal reading rate of today’s teenagers mean?
- Television. Television has been ushered into a new age. Shows like Heroes, Lost, and 24 are very different than shows that dominated the previous ten years. Why are these shows thriving and what does it mean to our teenagers?
- Music. Teenagers are still the music generation. Many teenagers have music playing whenever possible, made all the more common by technological innovations. What does this constant exposure to music do to our kids?
- Education. Education is a cultural phenomenon. How our kids are educated and their experience of school has an immense impact on their worldview, values, and definitions of success. Does the gospel have anything to say about this?
- The Bible. On this, I will simply say, “Duh”.
- Personal experiences. When things happen in the lives of our students, we must be able to at least provide clues to what those experiences might mean. How are these experiences (or lack of experiences) shaping the lives of our students? Is God trying to say something in the midst of all this? Are there deeper issues going on that the student is trying to repress or unaware of? Will we have an answer when they ask why? Do we have the ability to help them make the difficult decisions?
- Corporate experiences. When things happen in the lives of our ministries, will be know what significance they hold and how to handle it? Sometimes a student’s personal experience might become a corporate experience (the unexpected death of a parent, for example). Or these might be “planned” corporate experiences, like a mission trip, Bible study epiphany, or congregational struggle. Will we see the significance in all of these different situations? Will we be able to make sense of them or just try and keep the ball rolling regardless of our situation?
An interpreter is one who speaks theological significance into all of the above. The above are not just random things that happen to occur in our lives and our students’ lives. No, the kingdom is at hand and in our midst and will speak significance and truth into the events of our lives. A Neo-Youth Minister must be such an interpreter.
Where this act of interpretation really gets important is in the act of synthesis. To put it simply, as I understand it, synthesis is the interpretation of multiple interpretations. We must take the sum total of our interpretations of all of the above and make some sort of coherent interpretation of them as a whole that will effect the future direction of our ministries. With that, the task of prophetic imagination will begin.
I believe this will be my final post in regard to the characteristics of a Neo-Youth Minister. Fear not! This is not the last post of the series. I will continue the series with some Neo-Youth Ministry Methods.