THE PROBLEM, we have discovered after a hundred years of youth groups, is that the youth group is notoriously unreliable for fostering ongoing faith. The youth group model—sometimes referred to as the “one-eared Mickey Mouse” model of ministry—created an environment in which youth, isolated in an “ear” on top of Mickey’s head, had only marginal contact with the rest of the body of Christ.
The congregation worshiped in the sanctuary; youth met in the basement. The congregation gathered on Sunday mornings; youth gathered on Sunday nights. The congregation listened to sermons; youth heard “youth talks.” The congregation had Bible study; youth had devotions. The congregation had a budget; youth had a bake sale. …
In parachurch ministries, the gap between youth group and congregation widened further. Although parachurch ministries preserved certain theological foci commonly lost in congregational youth groups (for instance, the emphasis on repentance and personal salvation), parachurch clubs met at school or in homes during the week, and most had only minimal connections—if any—to a worshiping congregation.
The upshot of the overwhelming dominance of youth-group models of ministry was a deepening chasm between youth ministry and the theology of the church as a whole. When youth graduated from the “youth group”—the only form of ministry many young people had ever experienced—they effectively graduated from church as well.Those who returned to church as adults often found worship an alien experience, a distant second to the warmth and intimacy they remembered from the youth ministry of their teen years.
By now the exodus of adolescents from mainline churches is both legendary and sobering. … Today more than half of the youth who attended church as children have disappeared from church involvement by the time they are 17. Even youth who go through confirmation tend to view the ceremony not as a rite of passage into the life of the church but as graduation out of it.
-Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster
The Godbearing Life
From pages 30-31 of The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry by Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster. Copyright © 1998 by Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.
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But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:16, NRSV
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Did You Know?
Happy 75th anniversary, El Aposento Alto!
This year, the Spanish language edition of El Aposento Alto celebrates its 75th anniversary. Congratulate the editors and the community in the comment section on the web: http://elaposentoalto.upperroom.org/es.
This week we remember:
Dominic (August 8).
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
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