Take a moment and engage yourself into:
The lineage of what we know as “youth ministry” .
For over 200 years, ministry to youth has influenced students, society, and the church. What was a new thing is now an expected thing. Today, it is hard to find a church that does not have a some sort of ministry to youth.
Yet, as we journey towards the progression of youth ministry, we must first address its past and current state. Below is a quick view into the “long life” of what we call “youth ministry”:
18th/19th Century: Sunday School
-Sunday School paved the way for ‘modern’ youth ministry
-Designed to meet the needs of the unchurched, underprivileged, an outreach ‘tool’
-This is where they learned how to read (idea was to get them into Sunday ‘school’, learn how to read the Word, comprehend and know they were sinners, and turn to God for salvation).
-1851 and 1858-denominations teamed up to create the YMCA and YWCA (ran by Lay Church Members of Multi-Denominations)
-Cycle or Plan of Sunday School:
1. Evangelistic: they welcomed kids into the group
2. Teaching: taught basic scripture and biblical stories related to salvation
3. Commitment: invitation of salvation was given
-Outreach: kids are encouraged to invite others (the “Cycle” repeats)
-Purpose/Practice of Sunday School: Education and Evangelism
Sunday School gave young people ‘real’ responsibility and ‘taught’ them to reach out to others.
Late 19th Century:
-Once a month meetings began, and kids were invited to what was called “Lyceum”, which was a “serious” bible study.
-Lyceum was strictly a serious time and anything resembling ‘fellowship’ was discouraged.
-1880, Congregational minister Dr. Francis Clark started Christian Endeavor Society to challenge kids to be responsible for the larger service in the church of Christ.
-Purpose of Clark’s Christian Endeavor Society was: discipleship, emphasis on service, and outreach
-Christian Endeavor Societies grew, that he planned C.E.S. conventions: the first one drew 7 societies in 1882, 56 in 1883, and in 1887, there were over 50,000 (in over 33 states and 7 countries).
-Other denominations jumped on board—Methodists had the Epworth League (1889), Baptists had the Baptist Young People’s Union (1890), and so on.
-Every Group across Every Denomination had the same purpose: “train kids to be faithful church members in a secularized society that ridiculed the church”.
20th/21st Century: Modern Youth Ministry is “now” under the C.E. umbrella
-1930’s ministry to ‘kids’ (young people) was put under the Christian Education umbrella.
-Education was a powerful function of the church (offered stability, resources, etc.), BUT it erased its longtime tie to evangelism and service.
-The focus is now: education and fellowship (ironically today, we associate fellowship with ‘fun and games’. Early fellowship was taken from college ‘fellow groups’ know for their dedicated study.)
-Now ‘understanding’ ones faith replaced ‘conversion’ as the goal of youth ministry.
-1950’s: Fellowship groups began meeting the needs of young adults, not youth.
-1960’s: Fellowship groups almost became irrelevant (term ‘Youth Ministry’ began).
-Denominations and churches began their ‘own’ plan of youth ministry (the days of the Christian Endeavor Society were over). However, most had core criteria in their youth ministries:
1. view that youth are the church of today, not tomorrow
2. they are part of the church and ‘should’ serve the church wide responsibilities
3. should function in the ‘world’ and within the ‘church’
4. more emphasis on ‘education’ and ‘service’
5. person-centered NOT program-centered
-Today’s youth ministries have not been able to reach a consensus on an overall plan for faith growth. Churches and Youth have a hard time describing their youth group’s theological purpose. Commitment to Christ can and sometimes seems secondary.
-As a result, groups copy methods ‘they’ admire: Youth for Christ, Young Life, Saddleback, Willow Creek, or the new fad of the year (Skate Ministry, Cell Groups, YS book of the month, and/or the like).
-Some emphasis spiritual disciplines, discipleship, fun and games, big events, service, etc., which is ideal in the consumerist world of which we are a part.
1. Where do you see the progression of youth ministry going?
2. 5 or 10 years from now (2010-2015), what does youth ministry look like?
3. Would a “Christian Endeavor Society” driven youth ministry make it in today’s youth ministry culture of influenced by the Saddleback’s/Willow Creek’s and Youth Specialties?
4. Other thoughts or insights?
I welcome your engaging thoughts, insights, and experiences.
Next: ...Part 3: "Youth Ministry According to John Wesley: a message for today's church"
(note: info. taken from www.tomorrowtoday.biz, Ward, P. (1996) Growing Up Evangelical: youthwork and the making of a subculture, and other related material).