When I get around to writing a more comprehensive youth ministry book [if ever] I already have the title... because it really isn't you know... except if the worldwide and local context mega shifts while you're living in it and generations of people, parents and families, make another choice... except if that leaves a generation gap and delays the renewal of worship as it remains in the style of the dominant remaining generations... except if the societal shifts are counter to the forms of belonging, community and liturgy which remains!!
I've never criticised the older adult generation for the shape of church they live in per se... it's an excellently shaped institution/community/event for an age that no longer exists... BUT change is inevitable... what exists will pass away and what springs up will be the future... there are things existing 'members' of the church can do to make space an things they can do to consign what they know to history!!
PERMISSION, SPACE and VALIDITY are three key tasks of existing church communities in birthing new forms, experiments and stuff that younger people might want to do/be!!
All ministry is inherently 'relational' in nature and best powered by deliberate hope and action to include the Spirit of God in that relationship. Worship is described well by Mark Pierson as 'people/or a person responding to God' and neither of these things needs to be more complex than that... we layer a goal over these, we measure effectiveness in numbers, we over value conformity or forms of faith which promote a language and a behaviour of 'in' and 'out'!!
And frankly, it's time... as someone who unhelpfully takes the weight of the world on their shoulders on occasion... 'lighten up!'
Late last year I found myself at a meeting with a few moments to chat to the ladies volunteering to do the catering... once introduced I was asked "how do we get the young people back into church, specifically referring to their regional rural small but vibrant town location?"
My mind was full of the reason I was there, about to be asked questions by all and sundry about my sense of call to ordination and so I gave the most honest, short answer I could... "you don't!"
The question was rephrased as though I'd obviously misheard... I repeated my answer and suggested I was sorry but it's the wrong question... the challenge was to ask "who in our community that's present here do we so love that we wish to 'spend ourselves in serving their hurts and hopes in life'...'how can we BE the people of God in this place at this time... fully present in our community and seeking to become known on the 'grapevine' for our mission or engagement in God's world and God's activity in the world...
This might lead to some affinity groups or genuine sense of community amongst bunches of young people [for the time they live in this town] if they a served by our action and relationships in their context...
So, if young people are present, the last great gathering point in Oz society is schools... how are we engaged in serving school communities so as to be known...
Healthy breakfasts with Red Cross/Others
Homework centre with mentoring/tutors
HSC Care Packs
Instead of the old 'Education Week' worship where schoolies turned up at church in uniform for an austere regular Sunday service... how about partnering with the school at the school in a necessarily multi-faith celebration of education?
If you did have people willing to give leadership to activities for young people, build on these missional connection points to offer related activities which make sense... read the context... kids will join one homogenous group but it'll likely be about a series of compromises for group life... why not offer a string of activities they seem to have an affinity for and focus on building relationship around those... purely because God loves us all and values us... not as a means to some 'ends'...
If young people are interested in faith, spirituality, life and it's questions they will ask and show that... the traditional 9am worship is I predict the 'last place' they will find help... no matter how much they enjoy relating across generations... unless you already have a program which is aimed specifically at their age group you need to look at 'starting something new' and using resources aimed at this context.
'NOOMA' DVDS are a great example of a relatively universal attempt to speak out of and into the current context... it's not for everyone... The 'Belonging' Kit remains a helpful exploration of belonging, beliefs and questions...
Mentoring is a viable model of relationship BUT needs boundaries for safety, for being centred on the learner, not the mentor's agenda and needs training and monitoring... it's built on active listening and reflection. You are welcome to share your story but it's important to 'own and ground' your input and work at giving young people 'tools' for thinking...
Oh, except if you want to tell them 'how it is', that seems to work too, for some young people and sometimes for the majority... but they are likely to either develop unhealthy practices in relation to moral and ethical issues, or move to and join a more conservative group later in adolescence or young adulthood or find the gap between what they've been told and their experience of life is inherently widening and so wonder who to believe... or they'll eventually discover nobody is perfect but those exhorting them to aim for that are hypocrical in the extreme... and they are wired to walk away from that at speed!! Or is these just my theories?
OK... that's the start of one unreliable idea... more on this later... including revisions!!