I recently watched a great Youth Specialties interview with Kenda Creasy Dean, Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Seminary, and extraordinary leader in youth ministry today, where she candidly spoke about her hunches of the future of youth ministry. In short, she said that within the next 10 years we will see a shift from a programmatic youth ministry model to one that is more embedded within the very fabric of congregational life. This has also been my hunch, as I’ve noticed a subtle shift in language of position titles for youth ministers that has been trending. There is movement from the title of a clearly defined Youth Pastor role to that of Associate Pastor of Faith Formation or Pastor of Children, Youth and Families. Perhaps some of this is driven by a need to reduce staffing, but I also think we are beginning to see a shift towards a much more integrated approach to spiritual formation and how it is being attended to.
Kenda also noted that as churches and youth ministries become less programmatic, they will begin to be more entrepreneurial in nature. These ministries might take place outside the church walls. What are the strengths and needs in your community? How is the Spirit leading your congregation to walk alongside and meet these needs? In this way, youth become agents of youth ministry, rather than objects of it. This approach is in line with what this iGeneration deeply longs for and desires. Our youth and young adults desperately want to be a part of something that makes a difference. They desire to integrate their heart, mind and faith in the world today. They desire to be about something that is greater than themselves – something that makes a difference. Entrepreneurial ministry invites youth into a deep connection and sense of belonging – to know that their presence is not only valued but needed. With this perspective, church becomes less somewhere to go, and much more something they are. Mennonite youth pastor, Scott Roth from Perkiomenville Mennonite Church in Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania has been doing just this with the development of Urban Expression. Check out all of the amazing ways this ministry has raised youth leaders and is healing its local community one project at a time.
As the interview concluded, Kenda gave one piece of remarkable advice to youth ministers. Don’t go at it alone. Find a community of other youth workers and surround yourselves with them. Find support and encouragement and glean ideas and deepen your spiritual practices together.
As I shut my computer I found myself deeply energized and grateful about all that Kenda said about the future of youth ministry. Because we, as a Mennonite Church USA are moving in that direction! At KC2015, we will be launching a new website for youth workers called The Gathering Place. This is a site unlike other stagnant websites where you only absorb information. The Gathering Place has been created to connect people to networks, resources for spiritual formation and one another. We do this through virtual real-time learning and study circles where we create the space to grow community and talk with each other about current themes in youth ministry. In addition, every Thursday we will also have a virtual gathering called Think Tank Thursday where we dream together in this entrepreneurial spirit about what God is calling forth from our neighborhoods. You bring the agenda, we provide the space. The Gathering Place also offers: spiritual direction, personalized coaching for youth ministers and lay leaders (sponsors), forum discussion groups, a best practices blog, webinars, podcasts and opportunities to meet face-to-face with Scott Roth for training about how your church can embody entrepreneurial ministry in your own community. You’ll be hearing much more about this amazing resource that I believe, by God’s grace, has the power to revolutionize youth ministry and your leadership potential as we navigate faith formation in the 21st century together. To learn more about how you can connect through The Gathering Place, stop by the Executive Board exhibit at convention and join us for the official launch party on Saturday at 4:40 p.m.