Our profession just received a 40 year check up. The first paid staff youth ministers started showing up in the 60’s and since then we have carved out a professional niche of trade shows, publications, large events and a culture all of its own, oh yeah, don’t we tell students about Jesus too? I am proud of a rich history of men (and women!!!) that have modeled a life of mentoring students. I am a product of this lineage because of guys like Troy White and Randy Weece. And now, thanks to a great deal of work by guys like Chap Clark, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, youth ministry has been handed an analysis of our methodology, our programs, and the results are in.
Now let me preface this report by stating my firm belief that the Bride of Jesus is without blemish. There is a part of my heart that is hesitant when I start talking harshly about the product our ministries have created. Last time I checked, God wasn’t going to allow his redemptive plan to fail on account of our mishaps. There is a point where we have to take some responsibility for the number of students that are leaving the faith after high school. I must say I flinch a bit when I here the 88% stats about college freshmen falling away. What exactly constitutes “falling away”. As I look at the ebb and flow of my personal journey I am reminded of “ups and downs”. Aren’t we really saying that college kids are transient . . . what ground breaking information that is! Sometimes I wonder if Barna really has to spend 5 years on a study using college researchers to come up with that answer. Ha! I am sure we all have our own version of a Barna quote ready to go, at a moments notice, sighting a problem in the final “product” for our ministries. As I look up and down that hall here in the office today I am reminded once again that we are all church guys. We have all done the parent meeting for summer conference and reserved the busses for the trip to Adrian or PA conference. While I work in Para church land, I am still grounded on the focus of one to one youth ministry mentoring. We stand on the cusp of answering the call to generation z. If you have analyzed the data of Soul Searching and Hurt then you have set at your desk and at some point and questioned methodologies. Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater consider some logic: we have all seen activities lead to deep relationships or flounder in shallow event land. What makes the difference between just another summer trip and that catalytic spiritual experience that changes students forever? Summer after summer I would say one word: Intentionality. As you prepare for events this summer I want to encourage you in two areas. First, read one these youth ministry books and access your ministry philosophy and methodology. Second, Christ in Youth joins the larger community of student ministry in strongly urging a national outpouring at the local church level for an emphasis on one to one student mentorship by ministers and other Godly adults. For us at CIY, we will continue to our effort to provide moments where you can be intentional with your students. See you this summer.