Monday, November 24, 2008

Youth Ministry 3.0


This book was challenging, refreshing, and validating. Challenging, in that it feels like the show LOST, creating more questions than answers, yet pointing to something intriguing and meaningful beyond those questions. It was also refreshing, a book that is too succinct and accessible to be an academic book, yet too philosophical and theological to be anything else. It definitely is not a book of programs or the latest youth ministry craze. It is instead proposing a new paradigm of youth ministry, analyzing where we've come from over the past 100 years and shifts that need to take place in our present contexts. Marko brings up the three tasks of adolescence--identity, autonomy, and affinity--and proposes that affinity is the central theme permeating youth culture today.

It is finally validating, putting into words my own internal struggles over the past few years as I entered into full-time ministry. There were many times while reading the book that I found myself nodding, thinking "that's exactly what I've been thinking, but didn't know how to say it!" Having moved from uber-liberal Portland, OR to uber-conservative Mesa, AZ, I'm realizing that youth ministry must be contextual, that culture shifts truly do matter and affect how we communicate and practice the ways of Jesus. This book highlights those ideas, which helps me realize that I'm not alone in my struggles.

I was planning on going through this book over a couple weeks with Gus the Intern. Then I finished the first chapter...and had to keep going. I finished the rest of the book in one sitting, furiously underlining and writing notes/questions in the margins. Then I had to go back and read it again while also scanning the sidenotes. Marko posted excerpts on his blog earlier this year, allowing many in youth ministry to react and share their own thoughts, which he published in the book. Some of the comments are frustrating, but many are quite enlightening. They are comments from youth workers in the trenches, which models exactly what Marko is proposing. This isn't a top-down "I'm the president of YS so I have all the answers" book. It's instead the beginning of a conversation, a dialectical approach that promotes community and creativity. It takes guts to publish blog comments from youth workers, especially if they sometimes don't agree with you. (You can even continue to dialogue about YM 3.0 in a Facebook group here).

I feel like the book has proposed some exciting and powerful ideas about what youth ministry could look like in the upcoming years. But I also feel a sense of anxiety, of not exactly knowing how this is all going to play out. Marko proposes a few practical ideas for how YM 3.0 could look, but I found myself questioning many of them. And perhaps that's why he included them, to cause me to question rather than blindly implement a new program, to think about how YM 3.0 connects to my context. This is more about dialogue and less about curriculum, more about discernment and not about being purpose-driven.

The book has inspired a few steps that I do want to take, especially dreaming and dialoguing more with my volunteer staff and other youth pastors about what a missional, communional, present-centered youth ministry could look like. It would require an entire paradigm shift. Like Marko says in the book, 

"Tweaking things won't get us there. Youth Ministry 3.0 isn't about making a subtle modification in one of your programs or adding the words communion and mission to your youth ministry's core values. Real change is absolutely messy. Always."

I'm hoping to start taking some risks and getting messy.

5 comments:

  1. thanks for the thoughtful and generous review, joel!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Marko, thanks for writing such a thought-provoking book!

    ReplyDelete
  3. dude, i think that maybe you, ryan, and myself should go through this book together. i could see some good convo coming from it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Josh, I'm in. If you don't own it yet, you can borrow mine. Next coffee get-together, it's YM 3.0 time!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Should we invite marko?

    ReplyDelete