Monday, March 10, 2008


From great blog readers come great questions. Before I pose his question, I want to remind people that the purpose of this blog is to ask questions that will IMPROVE our effectiveness in ministering to young people, not to destroy youth ministry.

So here’s the question.

“Would Jesus eliminate youth ministry? If so, what would we do?”


Tim McDaniel said...

Good question. I would say Jesus would move away from "age-appropriate, spoon fed mentalities" that end up self-serving. In other words, does the youth ministry serve itself or is it more a movement to something bigger? (I fear we are more self-serving, since we might lose our jobs.)

It is interesting that Jesus sought to work with people relationally FIRST before demographically. I struggle with keeping people separate, since it seems to continue the divide we so desperately need to cross and mend.

Would Jesus stop youth ministry? I believe Jesus would rise above the question and seek to do ministry period, regardless of the age or demographic. The bigger ideal is, what is the movement?

berean1949 said...
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berean1949 said...

Great question!! [I deleted the previous version of this comment to edit for spelling and grammar.]

My quick, to-the-point answer would be "Yes!"

I have this notion that Jesus actually believes everything taught in the Hebrew Scriptures, especially that part in Deuteronomy that goes, "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." And then continues with, "When your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?' then you shall say to your son, 'We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. Moreover, the LORD showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.'" [Which, by the way, was so that Abraham's descendants would be a light to the nations.] "So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival."

All of that to say a little more simply -- Jesus would expect that believers would minister to their children and those families would minister to their non-believing neighbors.


Joel Mayward said...

In a way, I would suggest that Jesus was doing "youth ministry." As a Jewish rabbi with Jewish talmidim, it is very likely that many--if not all--of his disciples were teenagers. Some have suggested that John was even younger, like around 10-12.

Would Jesus do away with modern Western methods of youth ministry? Perhaps. Would Jesus do away with making disciples of the emerging generation? Absolutely not.

Kirk said...

I'm with you, Joel. Jesus was part of the culture of his time -- in that way there were many youth ministries -- Rabbis who would train disciples. I think Jesus would have something to say about youth ministry that spends all its energy selling t-shirts and other merchandise instead of helping youth to move forward in their faith journey . . .

jshay said...

I have to agree with many of the comments already posted. What I feel Jesus leading me to do in youth ministry and what my church expects me to do in youth ministry are often quite different. My church expects the T-shirts and the hundreds of kids laughing and playing and having a good time. Oh yeah, and then they want those same kids to show up for "real" church. My team and I feel Jesus calling us to a much quieter, more "insignificant" (as far as numbers) existence that allows students to question, struggle, doubt and grow in their faith at their own pace - something much more lasting than the emotional high of a bait-and-switch event.

beefy said...

I'm new to this blog here but I think the same question ought to be asked of all ministries, not just ministry to students.

Would Jesus eliminate "church" as we do it? More precisely, and this gets to my pet peeve of how we use the word church, would Jesus eliminate our worship shows, I mean, services?

We always ought to be asking ourselves whether what we're doing matches up with what Jesus would have us doing. Sometimes the answer will be yes, other times no. And sometimes yes and no in the very same ministry structures!

If a ministry (1) helps kids experience God for themselves and (2) provides an ongoing relationship with a godly adult does it matter what the form of the ministry is?

Richard Jones said...
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Richard Jones said...

(Like Berean, I found something I really needed to edit. This is essentially the same post I deleted.)

I like Beefy's comment. That's the real question: Would Jesus eliminate most (if not all) of what we do called "church"? And I say this NOT to renounce the church, but because this discussion should be ongoing in every congregation. We must test what we do against what Jesus called us to do regularly (if not constantly). Specifically about youth ministry, I think all of the comments have merit, but we live in a different day from Deuteronomy, and we do MANY things differently. As long as our culture marks out youth as a unique group, as long as youth have needs that are somewhat unique, as long as our youth live in a different world from other groups, there will be a need for youth ministry. In the developmental dynamic that is a nexus of psychology and American culture, we have a group of people (youth) who need special attention.

berean1949 said...

All of these comments recognize that Jesus' discipled his followers (talmidim) in both a very different manner and culture than today's. I think every point is valuable in finding a better way to ask the question.

We do live in a different culture than the wanderers of Deuteronomy as they prepared for entry into the promised land and we do not travel the roads and villages of our communities showing by example, by word and deed, from Scripture what following Jesus is.

Church seems to be [for youth and adults] so much where we go and so little how we live.

Maybe we have lots of "words" used for discipling youth [and adults] and too few deeds? I'm reminded of [and have to pray & ponder this much more] of Jesus' response to John's disciples, "the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them."

I wonder if Jesus' observation of all of this might not be "too much talk and not enough action!"

Pete & Heather said...

Hi Tracy (and Others!),
Your blog has reached "Middle Earth"! Gidday from Wellington, New Zealand! Pete here...

I have just finished reading thru your blog from start to finish...Awesome stuff! Your thoughts and the feedback from others are resonating with me too.

I enjoy your humour, and the attitude with which you are conveying your thoughts also.

My wife and I have been YPs in a small church for 4 years now , and in the last year or so we have started to understand the unsustainability of a programme based approach (Even though we 'pride oureselves' on not relying entirely on programmes!).

A couple of things hit home:
1. The whole piano teacher illustration. Parents defaulting to the YP to disciple their kids. Us being the biggest hindrance (That's hard to get your head around aye?!).

2. General church members leaving it to the youth ministry team to mentor/disciple the youth, rather than getting stuck in themselves.

3. The difficulty of finding/making time to think about the bigger picture. It takes a huge amount of headspace to pray and think about changing the entire direction and focus of a ministry.

It's going to be an interesting journey. Needless to say - We won't be taking the bus!

Thanks for the stimulating blog. God is using it.

Richard Jones said...

Oooooooo...this comment from Berean is great: "Church seems to be [for youth and adults] so much where we go and so little how we live." Yes, I agree. I think this summarizes very well the disconnect we all sense between the ministry of Jesus and our present day practice of church.

Pete & Heather said...

Quoting richard jones...
"As long as our culture marks out youth as a unique group, as long as youth have needs that are somewhat unique, as long as our youth live in a different world from other groups, there will be a need for youth ministry."

That's a good thought Richard. I think we'd all agree with that. "HOW" is where it get's interesting!

Joel Mayward said...

I'm recognizing a theme in the comments in this conversation: we don't have a problem with the overall goal of "making disciples" of the emerging generation, but the trouble seems to be in how we accomplish that goal.

Perhaps the question isn't so much "Would Jesus eliminate youth ministry?" as it is, "What's the best way(s) to make disciples in our context?" And I think the answers will vary with our varying contexts and paradigms.

Also, we seem to be reevaluating definitions of common terms: what is "church?" what is "youth ministry?" what is "discipleship?" Maybe I'm just creating more questions, but it seems to be important to the discussion to seek definition with these terms.

berean1949 said...

Regardless, of how one answers the first part of the question, I think Richard's observation [quoted above] is a good starting point to begin discussing an answer to the second part of the question.

While some would look at Romans 12:2 and say that any recognition of culture violates Scripture, I would say that conforming to "this world" is far different from becoming culturally adept in ministering to youth. Paul said, "I have become all things to all men" in order to win some to the good news.

How do we become the witnesses that youth can look to and see both the good news and Jesus?

We have to start by knowing them where and how they are, in all of the chaos of their lives, in all of the joy in their lives, in all of the pain of their lives - and all of that without taking on the chaos, joy and/or pain. For myself, Chap Clark's book "Hurt" has been a wonderful eye-opener to the differences between what these youth face here and now and what previous generations, my own so very long ago included, have faced.

From such an understanding we can, I think, take better into account the "different world" in which our youth today live.

Matt Thomson said...

I like the thought of questioning things... I think it is quite rabbinical. Questions typically lead to other questions.

I have really thought that Duet 6 puts the responsibility on the parents as well, and I am sure that you have all considered this already...

If the parents are the most important spiritual guides for students, why did Jesus pull the disciples out of their families?

berean1949 said...

Matt's question is awesome!!

Somewhere/sometime in the last few years I've wondered that myself and went looking for an answer.

I don't know if I've actually come up with one, but I'll offer these thoughts for discussion.

Maybe Deuteronomy 6 is the beginning of the answer as well as what the Mishnah tells us about the Biblical education of young Hebrew children [males, in particluar]:
[Note that the following is quoted from the "Follow the Rabbi" website]

"Both boys and girls attended Synagogue school in Galilee. But only gifted boys continued their education beyond the age of 15, as girls were married by that age."

"- Study began at age five or six in elementary school, called "bet sefer" with memorization and study of the Torah.

"- At age twelve, boys study the more complicated oral interpretation of the Torah. Question-and-answer sessions between teacher and student were added to the memorization drills.

"- Became a religious adult at age thirteen.

"- After age twelve or thirteen, gifted students might continue their studies with a local rabbi in beth midrash (meaning "house of study," or secondary school). Here began the more intense process of understanding and applying the Torah and oral tradition to specific situations.

"- The truly gifted would travel and study with a famous rabbi as a talmid (disciple). The disciple's goal was to "become like their rabbi" by learning and applying the wisdom of Torah and oral tradition to daily situations.

"- Students learned a trade at age twenty

"- Entered their full ability at age thirty."

So why would parents of the less than "truly gifted" young men [probably 15/16 to 22/23??] let them leave the trade they were learning - fishing, for example?

Someplace in my mind is a message by Rob Bell in which he says it's very likely a father would see it as an honor that this Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth had called his son(s) to follow him when he had been passed over by other (now lesser) rabbis. I will have to search my archives [and listen to more than a few mp3 files] to properly cite that reference but I believe it is accurate.

Anonymous said...

speaking of questions . . . .

in my context - it seems that many of the churches are attempting to answer questions that the youth aren't asking. and when it doesn't go well (short term or long term) - then the church seeks to convince the kids to exchange their own personal questions for the questions the church has "packaged" answers for.

to discover the questions i believe most (if not all)in this discussion are well on their way.


Anonymous said...

berean1949: The Rob Bell teaching you reference can be found in his book Velvet Elvis. He also gave that talk at the 2001 Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention.