The stereotype of youth ministers as rather unprofessional and directionless young males is corrected as the results of a recent national survey of full-time Protestant youth ministers in America, conducted by the LINK Institute of Huntington College, are presented. An accurate and compelling portrait of the profession is offered, challenging many of the popular assumptions regarding those who serve in youth ministry. Youth ministers are enjoying their work and are staying in the profession much longer than has been previously thought.
A survey of the history of Christian education shows that from the apostolic church forward, the church has taken the education of believers as one of her primary tasks. Following the influence of Horace Bushnell, the modern church in the United States has continued in its task of nurture. But the emergence of "adolescence" at the turn of the last century caused an increased sensitivity to issues related to youth, and the need for specialized ministry geared to the needs of adolescence. The contemporary need is to regain the vision for youth ministry which has evangelism as its primary concern, and not simply the model of nurture from past generations.
The changing face of U.S. society requires new multicultural sensitivities for youth ministry. Lack of cultural awareness causes people to speak of "youth culture" as if it were monolithic, rather than diverse. Moreover, lack of ethnic sensitivity causes many youth ministries to be less effective than they need be. This article calls us to greater cultural sensitivity and awareness as we do youth ministry in increasingly multicultural contexts.
Because of the realities of postmodernism, contemporary youth are disconnected from one another, and from the church. The task of the youth minister is not confrontation with the culture, but to enter the culture as an agent of redemption. Rather than being motivated by fear, we must become ethnographic servants, capable of "reading' and serving the various adolescent cultures we engage. This article offers insights into contemporary cultural issues, and grounding in theological absolutes which must drive effective youth ministry in the current settings.
Given that youth ministry is predominantly a cross-cultural endeavor, it become evident that the science of missions should inform it. Engagement with missiological theory applied to youth ministry can greatly enhance the capability of the youth minister to reach cross-culturally to contemporary youth cultures. This article explores insights from missions that must inform youth ministry, and the theological grounding needed for effective cross-cultural ministry.
This article explores sociological data that provides insights necessary for youth ministry in the twenty-first century. Using adolescents as informants, the author provides mature understanding of the nature of the adolescent world. Grounded in the research of the LINK Institute at Huntington College, youth ministers can gain understanding and develop strategies for effective outreach into current adolescent cultures.
A broad cultural gap exists between the cultures of church and contemporary youth cultures. It is the church that is called to be the bridge builder, reaching out in understanding and compassion to those outside of her fellowship. The current youth cultures (the Millennials) are more positive and hopeful regarding life than were their predecessor (Gen X). Through wise use of conflict breakers, youth ministers can help the church reach out in invitational ways to the various youth cultures on their doorsteps.
The strategies employed by youth ministries must be evaluated as to their potential for effectiveness for reaching the current youth cultures. Methods, messages, and structures of ministries must be evaluated and shaped to more theologically sound and culturally sensitive approaches. This article begins in theoretical concerns and culminates in suggestions for effective programming and strategies for youth ministry.