The Church and the New Paradigm Shift in Youth Ministry

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Churches historically don’t have the best track record when it comes to adapting to change.

There’s a paradigm shift happening in youth ministry right now. But does your church see this as well? One comment on the previous post showed this isn’t always the case:

Many church leaders are exponents of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage, and therefore they need clear reasoning to understand why the old paradigm has ceased to work.

The question therefore is: Where does this paradigm shift come from? Why doesn’t the old paradigm work anymore?

This is one of those questions where it’s important to find and formulate your own answers. The reason for this is that youth ministry is shifting from one-size-fits-all to personal and highly contextual. I can’t tell you what works or doesn’t work in your context, I can only offer some basic “guidelines,” a basic paradigm if you wish.

But it’s taken me about two years to define this new paradigm, to thoroughly analyze the current state of affairs in youth ministry and figure out my convictions as to where youth ministry should be heading. I really advise you to take that time as well.

Some resources I found very helpful were:

  • Marko’s Youth Ministry 3.0 – Especially because of his spot-on analysis, I didn’t agree with all his recommendations.
  • Kenda Creasy Dean’s Almost Christian – Show little the old paradigm has really impacted students’ faith.
  • The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry from Andrew Root – Not an easy read, but a great challenge to take youth ministry more seriously, especially theologically.
  • Tony Jones’ Postmodern youth ministry – A bit of an oldie, but still very interesting.
  • Mark Yaconelli’s Growing Souls– Reading about experiments in a completely different way of doing youth ministry really challenged my convictions.

Only when you are deeply convinced for yourself the old paradigm for youth ministry isn’t working and have a clear view of a new one, only then will you be able to explain it to your church.

Churches historically don’t have the best track record when it comes to adapting to change. How does your church feel about the paradigm shift in youth ministry?

But you need more than just information and explaining to convince your church of the paradigm shift in youth ministry. You need to show it to them as well.

Start out with some small changes if there’s resistance from your leaders or the church board to changing your youth ministry. Try to find two or three smaller things you could change in the way you do youth ministry that would have positive effects. You can then use these as an example to show your new way of doing youth ministry works.

I’d advise you to start with building more relationships. Don’t cancel the fun, high-energy activities if people are attached to these, but add something purely focused on getting to know your students. Think of taking students out for breakfast, having a pizza night at your place every two weeks or playing old-fashioned board games. Do this for a while and see what happens.

The second thing to start with is discipleship. Pick a few students to disciple personally and invest time in this. Or use your own small group to do some experimenting with discipleship. Challenge them to step up to the plate and really grow in following Jesus. If you’re looking for inspiration, I recommend Mike Breen’s book Building a Discipling Church.

But maybe in your context, there are other things to start out with. Maybe it’s evangelism, done in a relational way like a Conspiracy of Kindness or the Good News in your Neighborhood style. Maybe it’s reflective practices as describes in Growing Souls, the book I mentioned earlier. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

I cannot tell you what the best way is to start experimenting with new ways in your youth ministry, that’s up to you and the context you’re working in. Read up, analyze and then just try what works and what doesn’t. Then take it to your church, combined with solid analysis and info.

Is your church on board with the new paradigm in youth ministry? If so, how did that process go? If not, how do you plan to help them change their minds?  

Rachel Blom Rachel Blom has been involved in youth ministry in different roles since 1999, both as a volunteer as on staff. She simply loves teens and students and can't imagine her life without them. In youth ministry, preaching and leadership are her two big passions. Her focus right now is providing daily practical training through www.YouthLeadersAcademy.com to help other youth leaders grow and serve better in youth ministry. She resides near Munich in the south of Germany with her husband and son. You can visit Rachel at www.YouthLeadersAcademy.com

More from Rachel Blom or visit Rachel at http://www.youthleadersacademy.com/

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