Sunday, May 15, 2011

RUN OUT #01 What?

By the end of 2011 I will undertaking a new task in ministry/mission and at this stage I'm almost certain my role will not have an exclusive focus on young people... though it may be part of the mix! I will not be working in statewide youth ministry thinking, leadership training, events or resourcing!!
My 'call' and enthusiasm will always be for helping young people find identity, meaning, faith shaping and belonging and by it's nature, missional contextual stuff I find will have relevance there BUT I doubt there'll be headspace to summarise, encapsulate and continue to offer stuff with just that focus...
So today I begin a series of posts to do some 'thinking aloud', summarising and sharing about 'reculturing ministry with younger people' which will be an ongoing focus for me...
It's also a chance to share learnings and hunches, to demonstrate a consultant could still do a local gig and just maybe you'll read something you find helpful... it'll help me to write it either way... such is the nature of blogging...

This is an issue I'll get to explore in a workshop on the mid north coast in June as part of a look at the mission and ministry of two congregations...

There are a bagful of context questions to be asked and an understanding of leadership and other resources are needed BUT what I'm reflecting on here is more about the young people in our communities than a full expression of a youth ministry model.
Too much of what we do as 'church' is focused solely on our agenda and a 'rose coloured glasses' view of our rich history. It is no longer true in many communities, that "if you build it, they will come!"
Young people in the mainstream Aussie context are not so much into joining groups or institutions, choose 'culture of better offer' over programatic loyalty and are happy for the work 'to be done for them'... but there are motivators in evidence which parrallel the learnings of Mark Oestricher in 'Youth Ministry 3.0'


Rather than maintaining or starting a regular homogenous 'Youth Group' [if other resources and the context line up] I'd work towards a series of activities or group projects connecting with the 'affinities' of the young people in our community e.g. gamers, adventure types, socialites, academics, joiners, geeks etc but also more nuanced than social labels.
The printed group program would promote those events and affinities rather than group identity and different things might attract different FB pages, egroups, forums or event pages in social media so people can find [1] set of details without having to 'buy in' to the whole group identity.
Relationship building is a plank of every happening and it grows 'belonging' not membership and enthusiasm not compulsion.
Sporadic or selective attendance are the 'norm' but the relationship building needs to affirm affinity, not punish absence...

AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS or what Andrew Root calls 'Unfiltered Relationships'
These are not fostered as a tool for evangelism or to create 'members' but are central because we are all created and loved by God and because 'every person has a story and everyone's story is worth hearing'. These can be fostered in small groups, mentoring, joint multi-aged projects and by promoting an ethos or values encompassing respect, valuing etc

Young people's 'crap detectors' are highly attuned to hypocrisy [what a shame we're all guilty of falling short] but especially in the area of 'righteousness' and 'holier than thou' as the root of these words belongs in justice, right relationship and making ammends.
Rather than paying 'lip service' to the environment, poverty, ethical buying, consumerism etc we need an honest culture of trying to 'be the change we want to see in the world' and this lends itself perfectly to action projects 'thinking globally and acting locally' to engage young people in making someone else's life better or at least choosing this path to try...
This can enliven Bible Study and worship and you can unlock stories of the principles behind 'why' and 'who God calls us to be' and instead of just praying for the 'poor' you know their names...

Finally, these are not add ons, but require an overhaul and intentional change to what you already do or hope to establish... they are especially not just 'tools' for a narrow version of the gospel but are good news in and of themselves. They should not be formulated as a tick box exercise e.g. don't choose one surfwear company and one chocolate product to boycott and call that a holistic approach to living out the values of God... don't talk creation and then run camps and events dumping packaging, wasted food and endless party food packets into landfill because it's too hard to recycle with a group at a venue...

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