This three-part series is part of a paper I had to write for a class in 2008. I thought it made good summer blog content. I welcome your thoughts.
The grounding principle in my approach to ministry with adolescents begins with the conviction that youth ministry, as with any form of Christian ministry, is fundamentally a theological enterprise. Too often professionals in youth ministry, to their detriment, have shunned the reality that ministry is theologically formative. To speak of Jesus Christ is to speak of theology. To seek to be conformed into the Way of Jesus Christ is to speak of theology. If we in youth ministry seek to do anything it is to speak of and be conformed to Jesus Christ. To reject the theological nature of our work is to remove Jesus Christ from our youth ministries.
In beginning at such a starting point, all practices are then naturally scrutinized through a theological lens. This theological commitment acknowledges that theology goes deeper than the words we write, speak, and read, but is also learned and communicated through concrete practices and rituals. There is no such thing as a theologically neutral act. Questions like “What does this communicate about God and humankind?” can and should be applied to everything from a Bible study, ski trip, lock-in, or youth group t-shirt. As the youth minister begins to ask questions about the theological nature of practices, adults and youth will also begin to see how the Christian faith permeates every aspect of life. One might say that this theological reflection is a ministry in itself, rather than just a tool for ministry.