Youth Ministry Beyond the Bubble

Tomorrow I am packing up my iPad, a few pairs of socks, and maybe a clean shirt.  I am hitting the road and heading to Dallas and Atlanta with my co-worker Amanda to attend the Progressive Youth Ministry and NEXT Church Conferences. From their websites:

The theme for PYM16 is “Faith in an Age of Reason.” In the plenary sessions, we will tackle issues including race, religion-and-science, and creativity, and our seminars will cover a wide variety of topics, everything from the Enneagram to the doctrine of original sin to ministry to trans* youth. We hope you will join us — register today!

This NEXT Church National Gathering—timed at the beginning of Lent—will engage questions that invite us into the transformative power of reconciliation and inspire us by the stories of those witnesses who go before us.

While at each of these conferences we will be presenting Youth Ministry Beyond the Bubble which is a workshop we've developed to explore how we can move beyond the traditional models of ministry and begin the practice of risk taking as a faith community.  What we are presenting is the collective efforts of what we've learned during our time in seminary (part of my focus has been on youth ministry) and in our local ministry setting.  

It should be  no surprise that youth ministry is struggling like the rest of the church and it's been my experience that most of the struggles we have are because we are focusing on the wrong thing: numbers.  Numbers of weekly participants, number of "salvations" (yes this is a real thing), number of parent volunteers, number of retreats, mission trip numbers. Number. Numbers. Numbers.

I've noticed lately in online youth ministry groups that people are being fired (or forced to resign) for a lack of numbers in there programs all the while the rest of the church is declining.  Youth pastors more and more frequently are being asked to grow a ministry that is engaged in the church all the while being forced into a corner of the church very few people go visit - The Youth Wing.

What's really at play here, in some way, is that while churches are struggling to grow student ministry seems like it should be growing fast, right? I mean, we just bought $5000 worth of video games and TV's, renovated the youth area, and then hired a young(er) good looking guy to lead this band of teens.  And yet, churches still are not seeing the growth they desire, or that the community needs when it comes to ministering to students.  Why is this?

Our goal for this workshop is to empower youth worker to see beyond their current ministry structures and to dream big.  Dreaming big requires that we take risks.  Risks are scary.  And scary is  not something many senior pastors want to hear about (especially from the newly hired youth dude).  We will talk about risking taking strategies among other things as we prepare to bring youth ministry out of it's bubble.

So if you are in Dallas or Atlanta for the conferences or just in town shoot me a message so we can connect (and Amanda can buy you a beer).