Great articles and info for youth/young adult ministers

A series of posts on how to use technology in ministry with youth:

Why Kids Leave The Church:

Praying for and with our college campuses:

What do we do with college grads at our churches?:

Churches struggle to stay in touch with college students/Tips for Local Churches:

upcoming conference to check out: (in Fort Worth!)

New Credo Confirmation Curriculum is out:

Where’s the Wesleyan Voice?:

5 Ways to stay effective in your youth ministry job:

10-Minute Training Podcasts by UM Youth

Hood Kids

by Jimmy Dorrell

Standing on the sidewalks of the city’s largest low-income housing complex, a group of cocky young men chided the elderly woman walking past them on the way to church. “Ya gonna hoot and holler in the pews today, sister?” one said. “Hold on to you pocketbook, cuz the preacher man ain’t lettin’ you out ’til you help pay for his new car!” added another. “Say a prayer for me,” heckled yet another. All laughed at their prowess and fearlessness to ridicule the sacred symbols of religion. Most had only darkened the doors of the church when their moms forced them to go as young boys. None planned on returning.

The urban centers are hardly lacking for churches. In fact, four separate congregations circle the perimeter of this housing complex. But none of the four reach out to the subsidized residents, and certainly not to these bad-mouthing kids. Instead, the congregants come from outside the neighborhood and the pastor lives in the suburbs and rarely comes downtown except for church services. Despite the proximity, it’s as if the two worlds never meet.

Spiritual Angst in the City

Meme Webb, 19, grew up in a tough, low-income neighborhood. Like many children, she was dragged to church in her early days but wondered what the church had to say to her generation—to whom God was acceptable but the church was considered out of touch. She writes:

Hood Kids
hood kids
but good kids
not bad kids
just misunderstood kids
watch mom shoot up
and dad shoot bullets
and combat the words
that scream that I’m useless
I’m not
just hot
and mad at dad who split
and mom who took him back
even though he split
her lip the third time
I watch from the sidelines
and grow full of hate
from parents’ guidelines
and you, pastor
push me faster
to hate
taking our crumbs to fill
your already full plate
your frock is stained
you mock the name
of He who commissioned
cuz you’re more concerned
with titles and pensions

than the mission to save me
don’t forget the babies
don’t be so lazy
cuz I need you greatly
it’s not about parking spots
and who pays a lot
but who gives a lot
and who prays a lot
for me
the lost sheep
but nobody’s looked for me
don’t you know God made
the Good Book for me?
but I need direction
some protection
much affection
not rejection
man of God
woman of God
be of God
and keep your eyes peeled
for real
we’re crying
and dying
but still trying
though momma ignores us
and daddy abuses us
I’m sure that God still
wants to use us
when momma doesn’t hug us
and daddy slugs us
I’m confident that God
still loves us
cuz I’m a hood kid
but a good kid
not a bad kid
just misunderstood kid
and I need your help
before it’s too late
and I walk the same path
that my parents made
look at us
behind the chain linked fence
pain wrenched kids
such tainted kids
who were struck
but never fainted kids
we live hellish lives
but can be saintly kids
if you just try TRY!
until then
we’ll continue to die
continue to cry
the hood kids
that no one really cares about
it’s so obvious that no one
really cares about ’em…

Yet in these deep longings of the urban youth, the voices of the streets seem louder than the faint cry of a church stuck in institutional patterns of the past. A growing “non-church Christianity” is growing up where God-talk is hip but church is out.

They’ve Left

Though some return later in life when they have children, the challenging years of being an urban teen generally occur without the church. They leave for a myriad of reasons, but some of the most common include criticisms of impotence, hypocrisy, and being out of step with a culture that’s more hip-hop than hymn-like.

In his book Noah Where Are You? Why Black Men Don’t Go to Church, Kawanza Kunjufu says African-American churches are 75 percent filled with women and girls and most of the remaining 25 percent are elderly men and young boys. In his effort to understand the mindsets of the young adult black males, he lists some 21 reasons that his sampling of the unchurched gave for giving up on the church. These included a general disdain for the clergy—often perceived as taking advantage of weak-willed old women who support the pastors’ fancy cars and new suits. The church sold out and is more concerned for its own self-preservation than the needs of the urban poor.

“Most hard living people do not accept traditionalist approaches, and most churches that do work with the poor operate from this stance,” writes Tex Sample (Mainstream Christians and Hard Living People). Though middle-class suburban churches often fare no better, the bitterness of the urban poor who feel abandoned by the only institution that historically cared for them intensifies. “They don’t care about me, they just want my body in a pew and my money in a plate,” said one teen.

Counter Culture

In a phenomenon that too few city missionaries recognize, the counter culture of rap and hip-hop became the language of the streets. Birthed in a type of urban poetry laced with feelings, protest, and brutal vulgarity, urban youth found a way to speak their minds in a public forum—a forum that took over the music world. While many older churchgoers think hip-hop is an African-American phenomenon, most don’t realize that over two-thirds of all CD purchases are by white youth, and current sales put hip-hop music as the number one genre in popular music. But while advertising agents and market experts have patterned commercials and display ads around this street culture, the church has resisted. It’s the same old generational struggle of contextualizing the truth in the language of the unchurched in a churched world often trapped in a 1950s worship format.

In the midst of the sinking traditional church in the urban centers, signs of hope are also emerging. In Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, urban minister Phil Jackson has helped establish an outrageous hip-hop cultural expression of worship that has packed out buildings in late night Saturday celebrations filled with rap, dance, street lingo, multimedia, and pounding music. Others like Without Wall’s Club X in Tampa offer the mics to teens telling their stories through rap. From New York City (Club Life) to West Palm Beach (Urban Youth Impact’s “Bow Down”) to an Episcopal church in southern Virginia doing “hip hop Eucharist,” urban youth groups are adapting the eternal message of the good news to a youth culture living in bad news.

These passionate city dwellers recognize that the Gospel must take on new forms or “wineskins” to reach today’s disenfranchised youth. Taking hip-hop’s protest, vulgarity, and anger themes out to be replaced by revolutionary and redemptive themes, scores of Saturday night urban youth congregations have sprung up that attract the unchurched in a participatory worship. They capitalize on young people’s frustration with America’s culture of materialism and reshape the biblical message of purpose and meaning in the harsh and honest language of the streets.

Embracing an Experiential Truth

Perhaps far more pervasive and dangerous than the hardness of the inner-city youth on the corner, the encroaching postmodern mindset is repelling more youth away from today’s churches. For decades, Western Europe has watched a steady stream of teens leave the established church in what they deem a “post-Christian” era. Rejecting absolutes and embracing relativism as a standard, most reject any claim that suggest there is only one way to God. Many have become nihilistic and atheistic, while more wandered into a practical atheism that lives as if there is no God. Growing numbers of young adults and teens in America have followed suit. Content to sip coffee and discuss life issues, they often reject the post-Enlightenment’s rationalism and embrace an experiential truth.

Again, growing numbers of churches have acknowledged this critical trend and are seeking to recreate worship forms that provide meaning to the postmodern mindset that prefers dialogue, art, and creative music to sermons and hymns. Often meeting on couches in upstairs lofts on Sunday evenings, the atmosphere is strange to the traditional churchgoer. Defending the “old time religion,” congregations tend to see such wineskins as a sell out to secularism. Postmoderns, however, recognize that there’s a freshness of truth in this post-Constantinian emerging church that rejects a type of stoic civil religion and replaces it with honest searching where experience is welcomed.

Today’s unchurched youth are lured by competing opportunities on Sunday. Far from the times when the first day of the week was primarily set aside by the culture for worship, youth today have numerous alternatives to choose from on Sunday. Besides the ever popular “sleep in ’til noon” option, recreation leagues, television, video games, the Internet, pick up ball games, shopping malls, special events, and other opportunities lure those who do arise before noon. Sunday morning church has traditionally been hard for teens to get excited about due to their late-night time clocks. Add dress up clothing and a boring Sunday school lesson, and few teens who have a choice will choose that experience. Parents who attend and weekly fight their adolescent children to get up and go often give in after the resistance continues each week.

Finally, some of the competing forces against vital Christian faith have emerged in the church itself. In the growing evangelical culture, which highlighted individualism and privatization of faith, many youth have accepted a distorted message of salvation that supposedly secures the eternal future in heaven with little expectation on the earth. Reducing the Gospel down to what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace,” a new Gnosticism has grown up which validates a quick conversion with no discipleship required. Many of today’s unchurched teens consider themselves born-again Christians but have no sense of obligation to attend church or even Christian activities. Their lifestyles and values are clearly pagan, but their belief system says that they have taken care of the religious business and are enjoying life until the blessings of heaven later. Since belief is a private matter in this view, few church leaders press them with the biblical call to not “forsake the gathering” of the Body. Youth groups built around an entertainment strategy may pick these kids up for a youth lock-in or trip to an amusement park, but rarely engage them outside of their consumerist hedonism. Unparalleled wealth, amounting to over a billion dollars a week in discretionary spending, has allowed most of these urban materialists to go and do and buy as they please with little thought of sacrifice, servanthood, or service. Many of these teens exhibit strong patterns of selfishness, yet record numbers (six million under the age of 12 in the U.S. alone) suffer from depression and take medication for it.

The Hood is Calling

The church in the city is in trouble. Though signs of hope and a few new models emerge around the nation, most congregations aren’t even asking the questions of what changes they must make to reach a growing disenfranchised urban youth culture. Those that do most often retreat to institutional answers that worked a generation ago and hope a new youth minister can reach “those kids” with Bible drills, youth choirs, and Sunday school refreshments. Little do they realize that the mere existence of the church is unlikely in a couple of decades as irrelevance and postmodernity continue to erode their struggling congregations.

The hope of the church is in the urban youth. In a world where over half the globe now live in cities, new models and wineskins must ramp up soon. Though the same spiritual needs of a 14-year-old exist in suburbia and the ghetto, the forum to meet those has changed. The church must struggle once again to recognize that the Gospel can and should be contextualized to reach the present generation. The Apostle Paul spoke to the philosophers of Greece, to the sailor city of Corinth, and to the blue-collar workers of Philippi in languages each could understand about the eternal good news.

Christian colleges and seminaries must break free from their entrenchment in European classical academia to train passionate students with solid doctrine in the language of the streets. Congregations must dare to risk Saturday night services that are loud and participatory in order to reach the urban adolescent. Youth leaders must be set free to hang out in clubs, barrios, and inner-city schools to build relationships with a churchless generation that is still willing to talk about the deeper things of life.

What lies ahead is still uncertain. But the call to the city is unquestionable.


Evangelicals better than mainliners at retaining youth, researcher says

By Bob Allen
Thursday, July 08, 2010

DURHAM, N.C. (ABP) — Evangelical churches do a better job than mainline churches in keeping their young people in the faith, probably because they invest more money in youth ministry, says a Duke University professor who studies characteristics of American congregations.
Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, religion and divinity and director of the National Congregations Study, said in a blog post July 8 that research from the ongoing survey about the basic characteristics of America’s congregations
confirms that religious groups prioritize youth ministry differently.
Among churches that have 50 or more teenagers, Chaves said white evangelical congregations are substantially more likely than mainline Protestant churches to employ a full-time youth minister.
Fifty-nine percent of evangelical churches with 50-99 teens have a full-time youth minister, compared to only one-third of mainline churches with that many youth. In churches with more than 100 youth, the gap increases to 87 percent for evangelicals to 55 percent of mainline churches.
Chaves said mainline and evangelical Protestants do not differ much on overall programming for youth. Both are equally likely to have youth groups, teen choirs, youth speaking in worship services and to have sent teenagers to a church camp.
But those ministries “are inexpensive compared to hiring a full-time youth minister, and having a full-time youth minister surely enhances the quantity and quality of a church’s teen programming,” the researcher noted.
Chaves said that both evangelical and mainline Protestants lose many young people to “the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated,” but evangelical churches lose fewer than liberal churches lose. He speculated that one reason might be that mainline churches place less value on keeping their teenagers in the faith.
“It is difficult to know for sure, but evangelicals’ deeper concern to reproduce the faith in their children probably leads to hiring more full-time youth ministers, which probably leads to keeping more youth in the church,” he wrote. “
Evangelical churches invest more than mainline churches in youth ministries, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this investment difference reflects a difference in the priority placed on keeping young people in the church.”
Chaves cited a book by University of Washington professor James Wellman, Evangelical vs. Liberal, that observes how different church cultures view youth ministry in different ways.
“For evangelicals, if children and youth are not enjoying church, it is the church’s fault and evangelical parents either find a new church or try to improve their youth ministry,” Wellman said. “For liberals, the tendency is the reverse; if youth do not find church interesting it is their problem.
Evangelicals are simply more interested and invested in reproducing the faith in their children and youth and their churches reflect this priority.”
“Evangelical families emphasize religion more than mainline families do, and evangelical churches involve young people in a denser social web of youth groups, church camps, and church-based socializing, all of which increase the chances that a young person will remain in the fold as an adult,” Chaves concurred. “This is one reason that evangelical denominations have not suffered the same membership declines in recent decades that more liberal, mainline denominations have suffered.”
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.
A few thoughts from our staff:

Joy: I see a lack of personal initiative from parents and middle-age adults in the church to pass their faith down to younger generations. I would agree with the research that states that evangelicals feel compelled and act consistently to encourage and grow young people’s faith while mainline churches often feel it is the staff’s job to do that for them. I see a lack of personal ownership in our faith and that gets modeled to our young people. How often are we asked to engage personally at church?  Do you have corporate prayers or silent prayers? Does someone read scripture to you or are you asked to read along? Are there actual questions in the sermon that make you think?
What do you think?

40 Days of Prayer for Youth

Thank you so much for participating in our 40 Days of Prayer for Youth. We know God’s presence was moving in our conference and in the lives of our youth. Thank you for your time and dedication to the youth of our communities.

40 Days of Prayer for Youth

Day 40, June 6.

(This prayer will be read during the Youth Commissioning at Opening Worship of CTC 2010 Annual Conference at 7pm at FUMC Fort Worth. Please join us there if you are able!)

Leader: Get the word out. Teach all these things.

All: Awesome God, we give You thanks! We thank You for the grace and the guidance that you have poured out for us over the past 40 days. We thank you for allowing the word to get out! We thank you for allowing the youth of the Central Texas Conference to grow in connection as we have taught and prayed about our ministries!

Leader:  And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.

All: God, we pray this night as youth, youth workers, youth volunteers, and youth supporters of the Central Texas Conference. We ask for strength as we live, so that we might worship and witness You through our word, our demeanor, our love, our faith, and our integrity.

Leader: Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching.

All: Lord we ask that you allow the experience of constant prayer over the last 40 days to stay with us. Allow us to not grow tired as we continue to grow as individuals and as a connected Church. Lord, we know continued growth can only happen if we continue to be in prayer, continue reading Scripture, and continue to teach and be there for our brothers and sisters.

Leader: And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed-keep that dusted off and in use.

Adults: Lord, tonight as we prepare to lay hands on the youth of the Central Texas Conference who are going to be engaging in missions this summer, allow your spirit to fill this place, so that they might feel comfort and empowerment as they go out this summer Loving their Neighbors and Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.

Youth: Lord, open our hearts and minds tonight as we feel your presence through the laying on of hands. And prepare us as we go out this summer Loving our Neighbors and Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.

All: Amen!

(adapted from 1Timothy 4:11-14 as written in The Message)

40 Days of Prayer for Youth

Day 39, June 5.

Gracious God,

I pray for the youth of my community. I pray that they see hope and life outside of their high school, outside of what their friends are up to, outside of what their parents demand. I pray that they will be inspired by you to make a difference in the world, and in turn in their lives. I ask for strength, guidance, humility, peace and courage to make the right choices – to stand strong in their beliefs and to live for you.


40 Days of Prayer for Youth

Day 38, June 4.

Holy God,

We give you thanks for the new generations.  For those who lead, for those who follow, all who love and serve you.  We lift them up to your hands and ask that you hold them close to you. We pray for guidance and perseverance for them as they seek you. We pray for their lives and for those they meet daily: make your presence known and your love obvious among them.  We pray for their decisions and their challenges: send your Spirit to guide them on level paths and carry them through whatever they meet on their journey.  We pray for their service: may they continue to learn and experience how to love you more, by loving one another, by serving and practicing justice, kindness, mercy, and hospitality, and by knowing firsthand your gracious love.  We pray for opportunities to care for, love, teach, and serve the youth in our churches and communities. We also pray for opportunities to be cared for, loved by, learn from and serve with these same youth. Teach us as you teach them, show us how to encourage and bless one another. Lord, enable them and us to be your good news to those in need in your world. Teach us to share and to accept, to give of ourselves, and to receive the gifts of others. We pray these things with the confidence of children of God, knowing that you hear and respond to our heart’s yearnings.

In Christ’s name, Amen.