Fractal Theory and Youth Ministry

Paul brings up an interesting topic. To be completely honest, I felt a little bit like I was in an episode of Numb3rs–but that isn’t a bad thing–as I was reading his post. You should click on the link above and read Paul’s post too.

Paul makes an fascinating observation that the way we begin our individual programs is often analogous to how we begin and end our program years. This makes me wonder, a little, because we’ve made a small change to our midweek middle school program: we no longer start with a game. Of course, we didn’t do a big kickoff this year either. Maybe there is something to his observation. But what I’d like to spend some time interacting with is the final question Paul poses: what does it mean if we break the pattern and do something different simply to change things up?

I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of change for the sake of change. Sometimes it’s needed, and I acknowledge that, but at the end of the day I think the changes we make really need to be more purposeful than that. For instance, we noticed in our midweek program that the game, far from allowing our middle school students to get the jitters out, actually tended to get them more wound up. It didn’t set the right tone for our time together, which we wanted to be more about being together and talking. The change came out of a process of asking what we could do to set the tone better.

We chose not to do a large kickoff for different reasons. Our ministry has, in the past, been quite attractional. We are currently transitioning to what will hopefully be a more contemplative and open ministry. This takes time. The choice not to do a big kickoff was partly due to this and partly to a related issue that we wanted to help students begin to sense a rhythm to our week. In this regard, I suppose, a kickoff would have set the wrong tone for our year. Maybe the similarities really are there. But either way neither of the changes was made for the sake of change.

Having read Paul’s blog for awhile, I doubt that he’s really proposing that we make a bunch of changes just to make changes. I sometimes wonder if we don’t need more major changes in the realm of youth ministry. But I want all of those changes to be made for a reason. It is an interesting observation Paul has made, however, and I’ll probably end up inadvertently analyzing each of our programs over the next week or so and seeing how they fall into or don’t fall into this pattern.

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2 thoughts on “Fractal Theory and Youth Ministry

  1. Calvin, I love your thoughts here. When I wrote this, I was thinking through several big changes I made to programming in the past (carefully thought out reasons). They almost always coincided with smaller changes that were made fir completely different reasons, or atleast I thought they were different.

    I wonder now if there wasn’t some shift in my approach that caused both changes. Either way, when I read about this theory, I spent way too much time putting past decisions through the magnifying lens.

    Thanks for the mention and for contributing to the idea.

  2. Paul, thanks for your comments. In my situation, I almost guarantee that some (most?) of the changes are a result of a shift in approach and philosophy.

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