I finally read through Tash McGill’s article in the current (July/August 2012) issue of Immerse. A quick digression: if you’re a youth worker and you don’t subscribe to Immerse, change that. As most of my readers might notice, I’m into changing the way we think about youth ministry, but I’m not sure changing in the way Tash suggests is best.
I have the same basic concern that Jason Chenoweth mentions: it seems like Tash is suggesting we base youth ministry on the felt needs of students. Now, maybe that isn’t her intention at all, but the article makes it sound like changing the rules means responding to whatever the felt needs of the moment are in regards to our students. We certainly need to be aware of the felt needs of our students, but we also need to challenge them to look beyond those felt needs to something deeper. After all, I’m pretty sure the massive programs and light shows that Tash mentions negatively came about because of our attempts to minister to the felt needs of students.
Jason may go a little far in his criticism, however. He suggests that we can’t actually do youth ministry that isn’t program-based, and that’s just wrong. In smaller youth ministries, a non-program based model is entirely attainable. In larger youth ministries it would be much more difficult, but by stripping out the doing, and instead simply being together (which is part of Tash’s point) we can radically change the type of programming we’re producing and move from a youth ministry of doing and producing to a youth ministry of being and caring. The later is, I think, the more biblical model.
Both Tash’s article and Jason’s response are worth reading. I can’t say that I entirely agree with either of them, but this is the kind of honest dialog we’re sorely in need of in youth ministry circles. We do need to think about changing the rule book, I’m just not convinced that Tash’s suggestions–as I’m understanding them from her article–are changes in the right direction.