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What’s the Single Objective of Youth Ministry?

super-smart youth ministry blogger paul martin ran a blog series (that no one read, because he posted them during christmas week) asking a variety of people to reflect on the question, “what’s the single objective of youth ministry?”

there are some really interesting responses, worth reading, from:
joel mayward and adam mclane
benjamin kerns and jeremy zach
mark riddle

here’s my response (click here to see paul’s comments):

yikes. this is a scary question. i like complexity, and abhor easy-answer-theology. so, while i know you, paul, well enough to know you’re not looking for an easy answer or a 3-step process, identifying a “single objective” of anything is tough, because, we always have multiple objectives — always, whether we want to or not. i’d be so much more comfortable with a list of objectives than singling one out.

but…

i’ll play along. and i’m gonna use one word: christlikeness. that’s our singular objective, i suppose. if i were to put it into a sentence, it would be something like, “the single objective of youth ministry is to walk with teenagers on their journey toward christlikeness.”

of course, there’s a ton of secondary objectives implied in my sentence (as is — did i already say this? — always the case). as joel mayward wrote on your first day of this series, one can’t merely say “the objective is discipleship” without addressing what we mean by discipleship. of course, i know that you — paul — have a very different working definition and practice of discipleship than many youth workers. same is true here (and, really, i suppose my “christlikeness” and joel’s “discipleship” are two ways of saying the same thing).

my role as a youth worker is to live, honestly, my own journey toward christlikeness with and in front of the teenagers in my midst. i can’t change teenagers — that’s the holy spirit’s job. i’m not directly in the transformation business; i’m in the transformation hosting business. hosting is a metaphor that brings up sub-metaphors like stewarding (“how do i steward the time i have with teenagers in a way that best exposes them to the transforming work of the holy spirit?”), curator (“how can i highlight and bring attention to the good stuff god is already doing in the world, and in the lives of teenagers?”), and evangelist. wait — did i just say evangelist?!?! yup — but i don’t mean it in the way you might think. i mean it in the same way that apple might have an evangelist on staff. my role as a youth worker (connecting with what adam mclane wrote for you) is to be the evangelist for teenagers in my church. i am the lead banner waver for teenagers in my congregation, reminding them of their responsibility to collectively engage with the teenagers in their midst.

whatcha think? how would you answer that question?

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moestreicher@churchleaders.com'
Mark Oestreicher is a 30-year veteran of youth ministry, and the former President of Youth Specialties. Marko has written or contributed to more than 50 books, including the much-talked-about Youth Ministry 3.0. Marko is a speaker, author, consultant, and leads the Youth Ministry Coaching Program.