5 Glimpses into the Future of Youth Ministry

I‘ve been doing some thinking about the future of  youth ministry.

The landscape is changing so quickly, its unbelievable. Teens need more care and attention, while youth pastors as we know it are being fired, laid off, or getting pay cuts. It’s absolutely c-r-a-z-y.

I’ve written down 5 things (5 glimpses, if you will) that I think the landscape of youth ministry will look like in the near future:

1) Volunteers will rise – With the economy tanking like it has (and apparently will continue to), I think churches are being “forced” to solicit volunteers and let “paid” youth workers go. A new plan has (and will continue to) emerged to train passionate volunteers to reach today’s students…and as painful as it is to say that (from a paid youth worker’s mouth, I mean)…this is a VERY good thing.

2) Silos will be abandoned – I don’t know when it happened, but these segregated congregations (or “silos”) became the cool thing to do in the late 90s. Some people think they are still cool…but times are changing. The research is proving that integration of students into the church body is healthy. I think we’ll begin to see more silos abandoned as the years go by. In fact, I’ve been talking with new church planters all across the country, and they are not only stating that they want a volunteer-based youth ministry, but they want students leading (up-front!) and integrated in their congregations.

3) The Church will accept her calling to reach teens – For the last couple of years, I’ve been mulling over how I’ve done youth ministry all wrong for years. I used to think that it was “my” calling to run the youth ministry (that is what I was paid for, right?), but I’ve since realized “my” calling is to help equip the church in “her” calling to reach today’s teenagers. The two are very different. I think the church will embrace this calling as we move into the future.

4) Authentic faith will emerge – One of the things that made 2010 such an incredible year for me was the fact that I got to walk through the valley with my students at my side. They saw a very real, practical faith (I hope!) lived out. I tried to be very candid with them each step of the way, often sharing my doubts, fears, anger, hurt, and joys. Teenagers want this. Teenagers need this. They want an authentic, raw faith lived out before them so that they can follow. The epiphany for me came when I realized that it wasn’t “my” intent to deliver this authentic, raw faith to my students – it was God’s plan being carried out.

5) Social justice will be commonplace – We’ve seen the rise of social justice in ministry today, but no one is more passionate about bringing equality to the people and making sure felt needs are met like teens. I don’t intend to take away any meaning when I use the term “commonplace,” but I think in the future of youth ministry, there will be radical teenagers living out their faith as Jesus did, meeting the needs of society and showing the love of Christ in such practical ways that it will appear to be commonplace.

I wanted to share my thoughts with you, my readers. I have no real research (or crystal ball) to back most of these up. Observations, conversations, careful thought, and prayer were my only guide. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on subject.

If these prove true, we have A LOT to be hopeful about.

Also, I’m not the only one thinking about this topic. I’m loving my friend Marko’s series on this very subject. He surveyed about 15 of his youth ministry friends (including yours truly) about the future of youth ministry, and now he’s sharing the responses on his blog.
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Terrace Crawford
Terrace Crawford, a popular speaker and writer, is a channel editor here at ChurchLeaders.com. Terrace has been a mentor to students and youth workers for more than 15 years and connects with people everyday through his blog, www.terracecrawford.com and through twitter (@terracecrawford). He lives outside of Virginia Beach, VA.

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