My Journey Toward a Different Kind of Youth Ministry – Part II

You can find part I here.

So, I’m a sophomore in college, studying Bible with a minor in Youth Ministry, and I find myself confronted with a question: Why bother doing youth ministry? I’d been pursuing a calling, but I hadn’t stopped to answer some very fundamental questions about youth ministry. I don’t think I’m unique in this, actually. Many youth ministry programs at colleges naturally raise these kinds of questions–and well they should!

As I was wrestling with this I was also studying the Bible in more depth than I ever had before. I had a phenomenal Old Testament professor who was helping me to grasp things and wrestle with questions I was only beginning to grasp. During this time I started to become dissatisfied with what I saw as a complete lack of depth when it came to Scripture and theology in youth ministry. In fairness, I was a sophomore, so some of my not-so-humble arguments with other classmates will have to be glossed over. However, I really did begin questioning why we do youth ministry in the way we do it. I started wondering if having someone stand up and yak at students for however long was the best way of teaching. I even began questioning whether hiding the “churchy” aspects of youth group was a good idea.

Enter Tony Jones and Postmodern Youth Ministry. My copy (which I still have), was a Christmas gift from my parents. I’m pretty sure I read it in about two days, and then started reading it again. My copy is covered in various colors of highlighter. I have notes all over the place. In fact, sometimes I will reread Postmodern Youth Ministry and be amazed at how much it changed my way of thinking. I’ve even read portions to Mandy and she’ll ask, “Is that your note, or something the author said?” That’s how integral the ideas that Tony elucidates have become to my thinking. It would take entirely too long to create a list of the most important things I learned from this book. But, I will try to briefly explain some of the highlights.

The non-foundationalist approach to theology that Tony espouses actually helped me navigate some difficult questions about the Old Testament. I was beginning to delve deeply into some often neglected sections of our Holy Book, as I mentioned, and some of my very deeply held theological assumptions where being challenged–about God, about myself, about the nature of Revelation, about eschatology. It was an awesome time, but also a challenging one. The idea that we construct knowledge together was also helpful to me. Perhaps most helpful was the idea that being spiritual is actually what people are after. As most of the emerging church guys were pointing out in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we might have gone too far in trying to remove the spiritual from our churches. After all, Christianity really is about God, Jesus and spiritual things.

So, at this point everything was up in the air in terms of ministry. I was trying a lot of new things, and many of them were being received well. But I was definitely beginning to discover that there were some things about typical youth ministry that I wasn’t really comfortable with. I made plenty of mistakes during this time, but a desire to do youth ministry differently was beginning to take form.

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