Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Going Deeper with "Youth Ministry Doesn't Exist"

I recently wrote an online article for Immerse Journal, a fantastic youth ministry resource that is both theologically enriching and spiritually inspiring. (If you're in the youth ministry world, you need to subscribe to this journal.) The article is a response to Andy Root's journal article entitled "Youth Ministry Doesn't Exist," which was an insightful contemplation on the cultural phenomenon of extended adolescence. I've loved each of Andy's books I've read, and had the wonderful opportunity to meet him at the San Diego NYWC this past fall.

Here's an excerpt from my article, which features some stories about interacting with Dr. Robert Epstein (author of Teen 2.0, the must-read tome about the dangers of infantilization and extended adolescenceand about my son putting away the groceries:
I never had the Jerry Maguire moment that Andy Root awaits. All throughout my years studying youth ministry and theology at a Bible college, it never came. Even now, despite all the voices decrying the flawed theologies and methodologies that youth ministry has embodied for the past few decades (my own included), I still have an incredible sense of hope for youth ministry in the Western church. I don’t buy into the idea that “youth ministry is hurting more than helping.” Youth ministry just needs its own identity deconstruction and restoration—one might even call it an adolescence. 
This youth ministry identity formation is already well under way, with folks like Root leading the charge. From intergenerational ministries to becoming more theologically minded to a “youth ministry 3.0” to fostering a “sticky faith,” the rethinking of youth ministry has been in the works. It’s just difficult to see what all these new identity-shaping values will create in the future of youth ministry. 
Part of that future requires a rethinking of adolescence itself. If adolescence is truly harmful and culturally created, and if the church itself is partly responsible for its propagation, what can we do? The answer to that question feels enormous. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Robert Epstein, author of the book Teen 2.0. Epstein invited a group of us into his home, and we had the opportunity to ask questions and pick his brain on adolescence and the church. We talked a great deal about the book itself—its publishing issues, its more radical ideas, etc. Despite the dialogue, this enormous question loomed in the back of my mind: What can we do about adolescence?
Read the rest here.

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