Innovative youth ministry is essential for the 21-century church. Check out this commentary about innovative youth ministry. Then consider how your program can innovate to survive!
A Commentary on Innovative Youth Ministry
Gen Z is no longer engaging with religious institutions in prototypical ways, though majorities say they’re religious or spiritual.
Traditional forms of youth ministry are losing their effectiveness. Attendance numbers at weekly worship are down across the board, and anecdotally, pastors, youth ministers and campus ministers are almost universally reporting greater difficulty in accessing and engaging Gen Z. Currently, 40% of 13- to 25-year-olds claim no religious affiliation or institutional trust in religion, continuing a decades-long trend of erosion.
Although many have rushed to proclaim these trends as evidence of declining demand from young people for religion, we firmly believe that’s the wrong story.
Innovative Youth Ministry Recognizes Cultural Shifts
The reality is that our world has undergone a significant shift in the last 20 years. The decline of institutional trust, increasing demographic diversity and rise of social media among many other factors mean that young people are operating in a much different social environment than the one that gave rise and success to the program-driven models of youth ministry that have dominated the church landscape for the last 50 years.
As Megan Dobbins wrote in the blog “The Rebelution”:
For years, the American Church has approached youth ministry as a numbers game. “Whatever gets them in the door” has been the anthem, turning the church ‘relevant’ in order to connect. Cool lights were installed, loud music was played, all the pizza was bought, and a room filled up with teenagers to give us a thirty-minute motivational speech about how fun it is to be a Christian. This has gone on for more than four decades … (but) we are now faced with an entirely new phenomenon and a new generation.
Gen Z is no longer engaging with religious institutions in prototypical ways, though majorities say they’re religious (71%) or spiritual (78%). According to Springtide Research Institute’s State of Religion & Young People 2021, most don’t attend weekly worship services, and only a quarter (27%) say they attend a youth group.
However, Springtide also found that about the same number of young people have gotten more religious over the last five years as those who have become less religious. They’re simply not conforming to existing frameworks for what it means to be a typical “Christian,” “Muslim” or even “atheist.”
Gen Zers are more likely to engage with art as a spiritual practice (53%) than prayer (45%), more likely to engage in yoga and martial arts as a spiritual practice (40%) than attend a religious group (25%), and more likely to practice being in nature (45%) or meditation (29%) as spiritual practices than study a religious text (28%).