What’s Changed In Youth Ministry In 4 Years?

As I mentioned in my post last week I’ve been supporting and encouraging youth ministry from behind the front lines over the last four years. Working in a young adult role in a missions organisation and as a pastoral care facilitator for my denomination has kept me aware of what’s been going on. Even though I’ve only been back in the grassroots of youth ministry for a month I’ve already noticed a few changes across those years. I thought I’d name five here.

So, what’s changed in youth ministry in four years?

1. Communication

Instagram was still a start-up and not yet bought out by Facebook. Facebook was still growing and working out pages and groups. I was at the end of my iPhone 3GS contract. Snapchat didn’t exist. Twitter was Twitter. Churches using e-newsletters wasn’t really done. Podcasts were only just emerging as a new way to hear content.

As I step into this role, and particularly working with under 25s, I see the huge change in terms of communication tools available. If I wanted to I could add Social Media co-ordinator to my title and job description as Youth Pastor.

The ability to communicate with youth, young adults, parents, and the wider church has exploded and while at times this could get confusing I think it’s terrific. We are in the relational business after all, and these communication tools just help.

Four years ago I was still sending out hardcopies of the term program by snail mail. Part of that was to make sure everyone connected to us received something of their own, but on the other hand, it was snail mail.

Communication has changed heaps in just four years and in many ways for the better, if used well.

2. Experience

I’m really only talking about the Youth Pastors here in the Baptist church in Victoria, this is my experience. Although, I do notice other states and denominations who are experiencing the same.

There have been some great Youth Pastors that I’ve looked up to, rubbed shoulders with, and leant a lot from. They have had good youth ministries and continue to do ministry. Many, however, have moved on to other things, either in the para-church world or up into the Senior Pastor gig.

In my denominational role last year I saw this firsthand. There are plenty of newbies coming into youth ministry, and this is terrific and important and a must. I just pray that they might be able to get the mentoring and development I was able to have through the system.

And as an ageing Youth Pastor myself I know I’m part of that process. The coming five years will be a challenging and critical time to continue to train those coming through the youth ministry system.

3. Methodology

15 years ago many youth ministries were simply running a weekly program with games and a short devotional talk toward the end of the night. 5 years ago games nights were moving more toward small group nights with a social focus. Now I see many youth ministries running a worship service every Friday night.

Variety in youth ministry is important. Of course. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find some approaches difficult to understand. In many ways we need to be thinking through the context of our churches more than we probably do. Like any good missionary we need to be asking the question of ‘why we do the things we do?’

Whatever the case, there has certainly been a broadening out of what youth ministries do with their main gatherings. How are you thinking through the way you do youth ministry?

4. Conferences

There were heaps of conferences four years ago, I won’t deny that. But now there are even more!

When I look at the possibility of taking my youth leaders or youth group to particular conferences I find I have far too many choices. Each conference has its own emphasis and is designed to reach different audiences or theological camps. But even before I started a month ago I could see that on almost any weekend from January to Easter I could go to something.

It’s great to get teaching and training through different conferences. I was inspired to get back into youth ministry after a conference last year, around this time. But certainly when we talk Melbourne-based conferences, there seem to be a lot.

5. Training

Speaking of training, there is now an increase of information and training ready to be absorbed by any Youth Pastor willing to learn.

In four years there have been new books written in the youth ministry field. There is an increase in articles and bloggers focussing on youth ministry. I’ve already spoken about conferences, and now that podcasts are readily available there’s even more input to be had. Speaking of podcasts there’s this really good Australian-based one called The National Youth Ministry with Brenton Killeen and Jimmy Young. 🙂 I’ve also found some of the seminary lectures on youth ministry in iTunes U helpful too.

Training can be found almost everywhere and the better trained we are as Youth Pastors the better we will be. I still don’t think anything beats a mentor or colleague for help with youth ministry and training but there are a fair few more resources out now than there were four years ago.

Well, those are some of my observations over the last few years. How do you see the landscape? Has it changed much in your neck of the woods in the last few years? I’d love to hear you thoughts. 

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2 thoughts on “What’s Changed In Youth Ministry In 4 Years?

  1. One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed over the last 10 years is the theological shift away from programing to relational approaches. Oddly enough, all that has really happened is different types of programming have taken the old ones places. Instead of Sunday night large group, we have mid week small groups. Instead of Sunday School we have a youth worship service, etc.

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    • Yeah, good point.

      I wonder if moving toward the relational brings a more personal touch with smaller groups. This would certainly be the case in my experience.

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