Last week I wrote two posts about the paradigm shift that’s happening in youth ministry right now. One of the commenters asked a really good question:
What sort of paradigm shifts do you see for youth ministers themselves? If youth ministry is shifting towards that direction how can youth ministers adapt/change to guide students faithfully towards being active participants of kingdom-work?
I think that the changes that are happening, make youth ministry harder and easier at the same time for youth leaders. Let me explain.
Youth ministry is harder
The paradigm shift makes youth ministry harder because it’s no longer possible to just buy the right materials, entertain the students with loads of fun and ‘show’, run a critically acclaimed program and be successful. I mean, you can certainly debate whether that approach was ever truly successful (personally, I’ve never believed in the ‘makeability’ of youth ministry), but it isn’t working now anymore.
That means youth leaders have the tough job of figuring out what will work in their context. That means studying their context, truly getting to know your community, your culture and subcultures, analyzing possibilities, opportunities and threats. It means actively looking for ideas for approaches, not programs, and experiment to see what works. It means failing maybe tens of times before finding what works.
It’s also harder because youth ministry isn’t safe anymore. Doing youth ministry in this day and age means stepping way out of your comfort zone, being prepared to let go of everything you know, everything that was done in the past and embracing new ways, new methods, new ideas. That’s scary for a lot of people, also because nobody can guarantee ‘results’.
Youth ministry has become harder, because it’s not safe anymore. It’s about stepping into the unknown, taking risks and failing.