Just a Youth Ministry Geek!

Conversations about modern youth ministry

Book Review: Youth Ministry 3.0 November 29, 2008

Filed under: youth ministry — Dj @ 12:33 pm
Tags: , ,

If you’ve been in youth ministry for any length of time, you’ve likely heard of Mark Oestricher, author and president of Youth Specialties.  Chances are you’ve even used his curriculum!  

More recently, Marko authored his new book Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to go.  Being a big fan of Marko, and having a ton of respect for what he’s contributed to our little slice of the world in Youth Ministry, I knew this was a book I HAD to read.  And I did in 2 full sittings–which is something I never do.

For those of us in youth ministry, it seems like things are working they way they used to.  Oh sure, we may have huge youth programs and kids coming in by the hundreds.  But is it REALLY working?  I loved this quote out of chapter 1:

“…it reminds me of the church in North America.  We have all this momentum.  We perceive things are going well.  our megachurches are more mega than ever.  Our youth ministries are better funded than ever.  Youth Ministry is receiving more respect than ever.  We have better resources and training events and celebrities and credibility than we’ve ever had.

So why does it seem like we’re racing into a hole?”

The book goes through a history of youth ministry, the rise of parachurch youth ministry in the post World War 2 era (Youth Ministry 1.0), and the rise of Youth Specialties and more specialized Youth Ministry in the church till today (Youth Ministry 2.0).

Marko brings us to today, most of us are still in the 2.0 mindset but we need to move passed that into 3.0 to become more effective in connecting students to Jesus and the church.  How?  Well, I’ll leave that to you to go and read the book.  It’s not incredibly long (125 pages).  But I did want to dialogue about a few of the things that got me thinking.

  • As I was reading through this book, the thought that kept pacing through my head was “Maybe we need to do less!  Maybe we need to take a ‘softer’ approach to ministry.  Lose all the big lights, loud sound systems and Christian celebrities.”  Then, he said it: “One of the most important, dangerous, and courageous steps that any youth ministry needs to take if it’s going to make the shift from Youth ministry 2.0 to Youth Ministry 3.0 is to cut programs.”  I”ve been increasingly convicted that we DO too much.  I wrote about some of that here.  
  • Youth Ministry needs to move beyond the church walls.  Get out from behind the mask of “corporate worship” and get out there serving, showing people the love of Jesus in a real and tangible way.  This is what makes faith real in the lives of teenagers.
  • What frustrated me the most, is that one of the biggest factors of YM 3.0 is communion (as in community, not the sacrament).  What’s so frustrating about it, is that this isn’t something you can program for.  You can’t put it on a schedule.  And you certainly can’t say “Okay guys, let’s get our communion on!”  It’s a product of (I believe) authentic living in the midst of our relationships with our students and each other.  Marko has lots to say on this subject and he can do a much better job than I can.  But it’s frustrating that this isn’t something we can plan for.  It has to happen naturally.

The fact is, I think many of our American Youth Ministries are going to “fail” in the next 10 to 20 years.  We’re going to continue doing what we’ve always done because thats what is safe and that’s what we’re expected to do.  Personally, I’m afraid of being fired and never finding another job.  I am SO convicted over this whole issue that I feel passionately about it–but if I was to go to our church with these ideas, they would think I’ve gone crazy, call me irresponsible, lazy and a whole host of other names and fire me.  I think many are in the same position I am.

So how do we communicate this?  
How do we share with the rest of the church that things need to drastically change in our youth ministries?

We’ll see what happens.

Pick up Marko’s book.  It really is a must read.  I know lots of people say “Oh you have to read this” but I sincerely think that everyone involved in youth ministry needs to take their time to read through this book and wrestle with the many problems that it brings up and how to work through them. You can also participate in his facebook group of the same name to have open and honest dialogue about these issues.